Head Start supply warehouse burns

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, January 3, 2013

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N avajo Head Start's Chinle Agency warehouse burned to the ground Friday night along with its contents — hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of school and janitorial supplies, furniture, appliances, playground equipment and records.

Police would not say whether or not arson is suspected; however officers who responded to the scene heard voices in the hills behind the warehouse on the old Nazlini Road, according to Navajo Nation Police Officer Curven Begay, and one individual was apprehended near the scene and questioned.

The investigation has been turned over to an area fire marshal and Navajo Nation Criminal Investigations.

The blaze was reported about 7:45 p.m. and about 20 firefighters from Chinle, Rough Rock, Many Farms and Ganado battled it until about 4 a.m. Saturday, but the building and its contents were a total loss.

An adjacent residential neighborhood was evacuated while firefighters fought the blaze.

Marlene Hoskie, supply supervisor for Chinle Agency Head Start, said it's a huge blow to the federally funded program, which is already in restructuring to meet government standards.

"I'm just sick about it," Hoskie said. "We're only halfway through the school year, and we had our paper, crayons, scissors, all those school supplies in there."

Hoskie said the building also contained "irreplaceable records."

Because federal regulations mandate certain supplies be on site at the Head Start classrooms, such as cleaning chemicals, classes may have to be suspended, Hoskie said, but that would be a last resort.

"I'm going to see if we can get help from the other agencies until we can replace some of this stuff," she said.

The building is insured through Navajo Nation Risk Management, but Hoskie said it will take some time to remove the burned building and debris, replace the building with a temporary structure and replace all the supplies.

She did not have a dollar figure on the loss but confirmed it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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