Matthew Toth, Lebanon Daily News
Lebanon City Police say they’ve identified several suspects involved with the former Lebanon Catholic building arson investigation but have not determined a cause.
Lebanon fire crews were dispatched Sunday to the scene, located in the 1400 block of Chestnut Street, which officials say was already “fully blaze.” Lebanon City Police Chief Todd Breiner said the building had been unoccupied since April and was no longer a parochial school.
“Police have identified several suspects and have determined they are juveniles, utilizing personal interviews and video released via social media outlets showing a fire being set within the building,” he said in a statement.
Breiner did not say if any of the suspects identified were taken into custody.
Lebanon City Police is assisted the Pennsylvania State Fire Marshal and Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives in the investigation to determine the cause of the fire. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to Breiner.
When asked Sunday by the Lebanon Daily News, Lebanon City Fire Commissioner Duane Trautman said: “It’s arson, there’s no question about it.”
The building has been horribly vandalized over the last few weeks, with Trautman saying there was evidence that other fires were attempted in the past.
“We were never called to any of those, but there are evidence of several other areas where fires were started,” he said. “They just didn’t take.”
In April, residents reported a vandalism spree at the building, with smashed glass windows and door panels, obscene and satanic messages on walls and floors, and sprayed contents of the fire extinguishers throughout the building.
The Diocese of Harrisburg closed the school in 2020, citing financial stress and decreasing enrollment for its decision. The property was purchased in June, with plans to build apartment buildings and townhouses.
“It’s just a shame to see the legacy of Lebanon Catholic be torn down like this,” Trautman said Sunday. “It’s just awful.”
This investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information related to the fire is asked to call the Lebanon City Police Department at 717-272-2054 or Crime Stoppers at 717-270-9800.
Matthew Toth is a reporter for the Lebanon Daily News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DAMattToth.