Cause of Fox Elementary School fire undetermined

Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 6:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Several months after a massive three-alarm fire tore through Fox Elementary School in February, the Richmond Fire Investigations Unit completed their investigation into the cause of the blaze. In their evaluation, investigators classify the fire as accidental, but they couldn’t determine an exact cause and clarify that there is no evidence to support any criminal activity involved.

The findings come close to two months after crews started removing debris and stabilizing the more than 100-year-old building inside the River City neighborhood.

On Friday evening, Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young expressed his disappointment with the report’s results.

“We should have maybe expected anything other than what was provided, but nonetheless, it’s disappointing,” Young told NBC12. “So many persons in Richmond Public Schools had hoped for some kind of report that would speak to what happened more than what we know.”

Sky 12 captures the remnants of Fox Elementary school after the fire.
Sky 12 captures the remnants of Fox Elementary school after the fire.(WWBT)

On the evening of the blaze at Fox Elementary School, Richmond Fire said the 911 call center never received 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.”

Richmond Fire stated crews were able to manipulate the lock of a janitorial entrance on the rear of the building to gain access to the ground floor. In addition, RFD adds the alarm panel didn’t show any indication of a fire alarm activation.

Richmond Fire also added crews searched the inside of the entire building twice, checked all known areas, and found no indication of any hazards. They also add firefighters searched the inside and outside of the building for 38 minutes without locating any indication of a fire.

William Fox Elementary caught fire on Friday.
William Fox Elementary caught fire on Friday.(Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras)

After this call, Richmond Fire said firefighters responded to a second 911 call 25 minutes later from a passerby stating there was a fire at the school.

On Feb. 25, NBC12 obtained inspection records showing several violations at William Fox Elementary School just six months before fire ripped through the building.

In February, Richmond Public Schools said the alarm at Fox didn’t register with the Richmond Alarm due to a recent operating change.

“Verizon recently changed its operating protocol, requiring all local calls to include the area code (804),” RPS said in a news release back on Feb. 25. “The panel had not yet been updated to reflect this change.”

On June 29, custody of Fox Elementary School was turned back over to Richmond Public Schools. With this update, Young said stabilization work on Fox Elementary can continue.

“In the interim, stabilization of the facility can continue,” Young told NBC12. “The initial work has already commenced relevant to debris removal, but going forward, it’s our objective to get our students and our teachers into that facility as soon as very possible.”

Once the work is complete, Young said the goal is to open the school up in the next two academic years.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.