RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that William Fox Elementary had more red flags just days before the Feb. 11 fire.
Another unanswered alarm repair request
According to the report, Principal Daniela Jacobs made a request for alarm system repairs on Feb. 1, ten days before the fire.
In Jacobs’ request she explains that the alarm was showing three different error messages; one “Preaction Trip,” alert and two DACT Fault account alerts.
DACT errors relate specifically to phoneline-related problems. 8News reached out to Johnson Controls for more information on the error messages but they have not gotten back at the time of this story’s publishing.
On Feb. 11 the school’s alarm system reportedly excluded a vital set of digits for the Richmond Fire Department’s phone number — the city’s 804 area code.
Following Jacob’s request, the maintenance worker assigned to the job contacted Richmond Alarm Company — now acquired by Johnson Controls — to make repairs the very next day.
The report suggests that Johnson Controls never made the repairs as the request’s status remained “Waiting More Information” all the way up to the day of the Feb. 11 fire.
In a Fire Department inspection report released last month, it was revealed that issues with the alarm had been identified as far back as Aug. 24, 2021, with no repairs being recorded as ever having taken place.
The mice problem
On Feb. 3, there were also multiple requests made relating to a rodent infestation.
The first request asked for repairs on a wall thermostat that had shut off and caused a room to grow increasingly hot. The specific room is not identified in the report.
Action was taken by a maintenance worker who identified the issue as damaged wiring, resulting from animals chewing on them. He made repairs and deemed the unit working again on Feb. 8.
Another request was made that very same day on Feb. 3 claiming that the building was “infested with mice.”
“They are everywhere and the glue traps don’t appear to be catching them fast enough,” the maintenance request reads.
The actions taken on this request appear to be contradictory.
Although the report shows the completion date of the request as being the very same day, the status of the request says “Closed Work Orders.” There are also no notes on what action was taken — all other completed requests in the report include action notes.
8News has reached out to Richmond Public Schools for more information on the unclear details of the report, they have not responded at the time of this story’s publishing.
William Fox Elementary in Richmond Fan District was found ablaze on Feb. 11 at 10:35 p.m.
Responses had started earlier that night at 9:29 p.m. when the fire department said there was a fire alarm at the school reported by a passerby.
The Richmond Fire Department never received an official notification from the Richmond Alarm Company.
At 9:46 p.m. on Feb. 11, Richmond Fire was unable to gain entry to Fox Elementary when responding to the fire because the Custodial Manager was reportedly asleep and did not see the text.
Around five minutes after the text was sent to the RPS Custodial Manager, fire crews were able to unlock a janitor’s entrance on their own and access the ground floor.
Once inside, Richmond Fire confirmed that both alarm panels showed the motion detector had been initiated and there was no fire alarm activation.
According to Richmond Fire, they searched for signs of fire for 38 minutes and did not find anything. The building was secured and crews left at 10:09 p.m.
A larger response was initiated at 10:35 p.m. when there was heavy smoke and flames seen coming from the school’s top floor.
Firefighters had to evacuate the building at 11:09 p.m. when parts of the roof started to fall and the attack was shifted to defensive.
The fire was not marked under control until 2:44 a.m. the following morning and crews stayed to look for hot spots until later that night.
The cause of the fire has not been identified by investigators.