New security video shows Fox Elementary fire, investigation to take up to two weeks

Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 8:03 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Hours worth of security video released by Richmond Public Schools takes us inside Fox Elementary the night of a massive three-alarm fire.

One clip shows smoke filling the front foyer as the fire spreads and sparks begin to fall from the ceiling.

RPS says the timestamps are 40 minutes earlier than the actual time due to a metadata issue.

Richmond Fire Department says its investigation into the origin of the William Fox Elementary School fire may take up to two weeks.

“Obviously, everybody is still pretty shaken up,” RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras said.

An explosion of embers rained down on Fox Elementary, as seen in a new security video just released by Richmond Public Schools Wednesday morning.

The fire department also confirmed the 110-year-old building had not been retrofitted for sprinklers due to its age.

Concerns are now coming to the surface, questioning the safety of other old school buildings in the city.

“There are a number, I think in the thousands, of schools across this state that are over the age of 50 years old,” Mayor Levar Stoney said. “Fox was built in 1911, I believe, and we have a few other schools that are just as old as well.”

“We’re assessing that all across our school division,” Kamras said.

NBC12 asked both Richmond Fire and RPS about when the most recent building inspection took place at Fox but has not answered.

Kamras says the tragedy at Fox only emphasizes the need to fund renovations and school construction.

“This is something that is just desperately needed, whether it comes to a question of safety or just basic learning environment,” he said. “I’m hopeful, prayerful that if there’s any silver lining from this, it’s that it creates more momentum at the state level for those kinds of investments.”

Mayor Levar Stoney also underlined the need for collaboration and funding to fix up older schools.

“We want to update these facilities, but that’s gonna take funds, and funds won’t fall out of the sky,” he said. “We’re talking big money here. We were talking millions and millions, in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”

A key detail released in the fire timeline: the alarm panels never contacted the Richmond Alarm Company.

That’s because Verizon now requires local calls to include the 804 area code. The alarm panels were not updated to use the area code, so the initial call never went through. Instead, it was a passerby who heard the alarm and called 911.

NBC12 has not gotten answers back about whether the alarm systems have been updated and corrected at other schools.

As for rebuilding Fox Elementary, Kamras says he wants it to happen at the old school site on Hanover Avenue.

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