Cause of fire at W.Va. Schools for the Deaf and the Blind ruled undetermined

Fire ravages WV School for the Deaf and the Blind building
Fire ravages WV School for the Deaf and the Blind building(Troy Conard)
Published: Mar. 4, 2022 at 9:05 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Investigators were not able to determine a cause behind last weekend’s fire at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, the State Fire Marshal’s Office announced Friday.

The fire on February 26 destroyed the 1800s-era Administration Building on the Romney campus.

The building was unoccupied at the time, and students were gone for the weekend.

The fire started on or around 6:12 a.m. and required several fire departments to help extinguish.

Because of the scope and size of the scene it was determined by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office to call in extra resources from the regional section of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF soon arrived with their National Response Team, which consisted of more than 30 agents.

A detailed investigation, including interviews, scene analysis and checking of video surveillance, was conducted by both agencies. With the fire cause ruled as undetermined in cause, the case is now considered closed by the WVSFMO and ATF.

Faculty and staff at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (WVSDB) are preparing for students to return to campus next week after the restoration of key services and utilities is completed over the coming days.

Servers that powered utilities including Internet, telephone service and security camera surveillance were damaged and required extensive restorative work.

Students, who were away from campus and at their homes for their weekend break at the time of the fire, remained at home and were moved to remote learning this week.

“This was more than a building to the school and the community, it was a part of the culture and tradition, and it is a significant loss to everyone,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “However, once again, I witnessed numerous examples of community pride and compassion. It was inspiring to see the response of so many agencies, organizations, community members and individuals from around the country who stepped into action and showed concern in a number of ways.”

“We will continue to work with our students and staff during this time of recovery,” said West Virginia Board of Education (WVBE) President Miller Hall. “We are eager for our students to return to campus so that their school year and activities can continue. We are mindful that things will be different on campus right now, and we appreciate the teachers, administrators and staff who will be even more vigilant in addressing the needs of our children. We will be there to support them in these endeavors.”

The schools say additional social-emotional supports are in place for students, faculty and staff who may be affected by the tragedy.

The Administration Building was among the oldest structures on campus dating back to the 1800s. The building was vacant and not being used at the time of the fire. All offices and personnel once housed in the building were relocated to other spaces on campus late last year. Additionally, a comprehensive inventory began last summer, and the historical contents were cataloged at that time.

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