RFD releases 31-page report of fire investigation at Fox Elementary

Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 7:38 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Six months after the enormous fire consumed William Fox Elementary School, the report into the investigation was made public.

The Richmond Fire Department ruled that the blaze that happened on Feb. 11 was accidental but could not determine what started it all.

“Do I wish that we could get more information? Absolutely. Do I wish that the city would have treated it with more urgency? Very much so,” Lauren Methena, whose two kids just recently graduated from Fox Elementary.

The report also finds there was no sprinkler system installed in the building, built over a century ago, which allowed the fire to spread. The report added the building codes possibly didn’t necessarily require a system to be put in place.

In the report, RFD talked with four witnesses, including principal Daniela Jacobs. She reported a pest issue to Orkin Pest Control after mice previously chewed through wires in the attic.

She added that several months before the fire, there were issues with the alarm panel. Richmond Fire said on the night of Feb. 11, the 911 call center never received a notice of an alarm going off. Instead, the fire department said 911 received a call from someone who stated they could “hear an alarm coming from within the school as well as see strobes lights flashing.”

Methena said she wasn’t surprised about the full report.

“I’m upset, and I’m frustrated, but I’m also realistic about what realistically could’ve happened before the fire and what realistically could’ve happened after the fire. We’re dealing with bureaucracy. We’re dealing with a lot of different challenges,” Methena said.

The over a century-old school was slapped with eight code violations in Aug. 2021. Some violations include combustible materials being stored in boiler and electrical equipment rooms.

Along with extension cords being used for permanent wiring. According to RFD, the blaze torched about $2.5 million worth of supplies and the building itself.

Methena said better resources and funding for Richmond Public Schools could have prevented the devastating fire.

“After years and years of having support staff slashed, having budgets slashed, this is a sign of neglect. This doesn’t just happen overnight,” Methena said.

In the report, the part of the summary that included opinions and conclusions as to what caused the fire was redacted.

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