Arson investigation underway at Coughlin School

(Matt Lage/WPRI)

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Officials in Fall River say the recent fire at a local landmark is officially being investigated as arson.

The Coughlin School on Pleasant Street went up in flames before 8:45 Saturday morning, according to investigators.

Ashes and slate tiles were all over the ground outside the school Sunday – and the roof has collapsed.

The building is now a crime scene, and Lt. Paul Bernier says they are actively looking for suspects.

Build in 1893, neighbors say they see the building as a piece of history.

“Everybody comes here, and everyone has some sort of memory of the place since it’s 110 years old and it’s been a part of Fall River for a long time,” said Richard Affonso. He and Kim Carvalho watched the building burn on Saturday.

“Honestly, devastated. I come here all the time, we walk our dogs. It’s just a tragedy to see this like this.”

“It’s beautiful. It’s a shame, it really is,” added Carvalho.

Raymond Wood attended the elementary school as a child and remembers it fondly.

“I was pretty shocked,” he said. “It’s been here forever…I loved this place,” Wood said.

The school housed elementary students for more than a century and closed in 2008. It is still owned by the city. Mayor Sam Sutter released a statement about the fire Saturday, saying in part:

“This is a very sad day for our city because we have lost a large part of a historical treasure. Coughlin School was in operation for over 110 years, and it was a classic neighborhood school filled with memories and dreams.”

Though the building was vacant, Affonso and Carvalho say they hoped the building would be put to another use.

“Anything would’ve been better than seeing it burned out,” said Carvalho.

Investigators tell Eyewitness News they are offering a $5,000 reward for information on how the fire was set. Anyone with information is urged to contact the Fire Marshal T 1-800-682-9229.

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