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AF track team loses $20K in equipment to arson

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AMERICAN FORK - A mess of soot and ashes is all that's left of part of the track and a load of expensive equipment at American Fork High School after someone deliberately set fire to the area.

The blaze broke out Sunday on the school's track and destroyed $20,000 worth of pole vaulting equipment that was on loan to the program. Police say there's no question the fire was intentional, leaving the entire school in shock and wondering why someone would do this.

Principal Doug Finch could see the smoke from his neighborhood, and feared the fire was at his school.

It will cost $20,000 to replace this equipment, so this is really a big loss for us. We just hope we can keep the program going.

–Art Taylor

"From what I could tell yesterday, the entire damage took place in a period of about ten minutes from start to finish," he said. "It just consumed it like jet fuel and black smoke up in the air and it simmered down to nothing left to burn."

Track coach Art Taylor can only shake his head and stare at what used to be some amazing equipment. "This is a very devastating thing for us," he said.

Taylor has been the coach of the standout program for 26 years, but says what happened Sunday is a lowlight of his career.

"It's really a devastating loss because the mats and the time of the coach have been donated," he said.

That coach is Elbert Pratt, who lives in Mexico and is president of the Pan America Pole Vault Association. He allowed American Fork High School to have access to something they didn't have -- regulation pole vaulting mats and a program that benefited young athletes from throughout Utah County.

"To have someone in the community who has the background and experience that he has and making an investment in the kids at a local high school level -- versus a college or private level -- for him to have been so generous, for me it's a really unfortunate event," said Finch.

It's a devastating loss for athletes who used the equipment to improve their abilities.

"It will cost $20,000 to replace this equipment," said Taylor, "so this is really a big loss for us. We just hope we can keep the program going."

The actual track competition does not begin until the spring, so that gives the school some time to explore options. The high school is offering a cash reward in hopes of finding those responsible for the damage.

Anyone with information can contact American Fork Police at 801-763-3020.


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