A fire struck Dike Newell elementary school in Bath late Friday night, June 10. Contributed photo via Maine Department of Public Safety

A Bath man was arrested Saturday evening and charged with burglary and arson in connection with the fire that heavily damaged the Dike Newell School in Bath the night before.

Shannon Moss, spokeswoman for the State Fire Marshal’s Office, said that at about 6 p.m., “30-year-old Allan Thomas Vigil of Bath was arrested by the Fire Marshal’s Office and the Bath Police Department while riding a bicycle on Denny Road in Bath.”

She said Vigil was taken into custody “without incident” and was transported to the Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset.

Dike Newell School, which serves pre-K through second-grade students in Bath, was in flames Friday night and into early Saturday morning.

Earlier Saturday, Moss said that the fire was considered suspicious.

The fire caused “extensive damage,” according to an email from the school’s principal to the school community Saturday morning. “We are still working with the fire department to assess the situation, and will keep the community informed as we learn more,” Jennifer McKay wrote. “We have no other details at this time, but wish to express our gratitude to the emergency responders who worked through the night to help with the situation.”


A fire struck Dike Newell elementary school in Bath late Friday night, June 10. Contributed photo via Maine Department of Public Safety

News of the fire came shortly after 11 p.m. Friday.

There was no word on what caused the fire or the total extent of the damage to the school, which was built in 1960. By 11:45 p.m., flames were visible on the roof of the building.

Emergency responders blocked off sections of High Street near the intersection of Wright Drive in north Bath, where the school is located.

“Two firefighters were treated at a local hospital for minor injuries sustained during suppression efforts,” Moss stated.

The fire was fully extinguished by around 5:30 a.m. Saturday, according to Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Cummings.

Everything inside the building, including personal items belonging to students, teachers and staff is likely a total loss due to fire, soot and water damage, according to the school’s principal.


Responding fire departments included Bath, West Bath, Brunswick, Woolwich, Topsham, Phippsburg, Freeport, Yarmouth, Wiscasset and Lisbon. Multiple rescue units from Woolwich, Phippsburg and Brunswick also assisted.

“There was a lot of sirens for a while and we could smell the smoke,” Alexandra Purintom, who lives in the neighborhood and who attended the school, said Friday night. “It’s scary. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. There’s never been so many cops and firefighters or anything like that.”

Faculty and administrators from Regional School Unit 1, which serves Bath and the surrounding communities, had gathered on Wright Drive, a short distance from the school.

Faculty gathered a short distance from Dike Newell School in Bath, which caught fire Friday, June 10. John Swinconeck /The Times Record

RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel said there was little information available.

“I’m in shock,” Manuel said. “Not knowing details, we have to wait for more information as to the condition of the school, what caused it, those sorts of things.”

Manuel said the district will communicate with Dike Newell families as he learns more from the fire department.


“We do have one more week left of school,” Manuel said. “We’ll try to communicate with families as to what that will look like, but we don’t have those answers right now.”

Manuel added: “It’s an emotional thing for a lot of people. … it’s difficult.”

A fire struck Dike Newell elementary school in Bath late Friday night, June 10. John Swinconeck /The Times Record

The scene was in stark contrast to earlier Friday, when staff and students celebrated the end of the year with Field Day outdoor activities under a clear blue sky. The last day of school for Dike Newell is June 17.

The city is in the midst of alumni weekend, part of Bath’s Morse High School graduation ceremonies. It’s a time of celebration in the close-knit city known for its pride in its schools.

“There’s a lot of shock right now,” McKay said, speaking outside the school early Saturday morning during the fire. “It’s a building that means a lot to everybody. To see it damaged is pretty heartbreaking.”

“It’s going to cause a lot of emotions,” said Bath Police Chief Andrew Booth. “We’ve already seen that with a lot of people. It’s a big deal when a local school catches fire. But we’ll get the fire out and we’ll investigate it and hopefully get some answers.”


There will be no school Monday for Dike Newell students, who will then have half-days at Fisher Mitchell Elementary School, which serves grades 3-5 at the other end of High Street in the southern end of the city. Students will attend school in the mornings, and the district is working with the Bath Area Family YMCA to provide afternoon care for families that may need it.

“Our half days at Fisher-Mitchell will both serve as time to reassure students and come together as a community, and to end the year with some joy,” McKay wrote in an email sent to parents on Sunday.

Ross Berkowitz, principal of Fisher Mitchell Elementary School, was at Dike Newell Friday night.

“It’s devastating and emotional,” Berkowitz said, adding that he was grateful there were no children in the building at the time of the fire.

In her email Sunday, McKay thanked the community for its support.

“Our thoughts and hearts are with our whole Dike-Newell community,” McKay wrote. “We are resilient, and as I have said this weekend many times we are much more than a building. We are students, staff, and families, we are a culture of learning and joy, we are a group of caring people who will rebuild and regroup.”

Note: John Swinconeck is the parent of a Dike Newell student.

The roof of Dike Newell School shows visible damage, following a fire that started Friday. John Swinconeck / The Times Record

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