BEDFORD, Va. – A fire ripped through the historic Bedford Middle School early Thursday morning.
Firefighters were called to the vacant school located at 503 Longwood Avenue at approximately 3 a.m., according to WDBJ.
The fire heavily damaged the building, but no injuries were reported.
The Bedford Fire Department marked the fire under control just after 11 a.m. The cause of the blaze is unknown.
Police say the vacant school was recently hit with break-ins and vandalism, but that has not been connected to the fire at this time.
“There have been some incidents, but we are not going to speculate anything until the fire marshal has done an investigation,” said Bedford Fire Chief Brad Creasy. “We will wait until we have the results of that investigation before we proceed.”
The school was known as an important city landmark as several of D-Day’s Bedford Boys attended the school. The Bedford Boys were American soldiers who spearheaded the invasion of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.
The school, which was slated for redevelopment, was also on the Bedford Boys Homefront Tour.
National D-Day Memorial Foundation President April Cheek-Messier released a statement:
“We are deeply saddened to see such an iconic structure in our community succumb to a devastating fire. The old middle school was an important cornerstone for generations in our community including some of our very own “Bedford Boys” who spent many hours within its walls. Leslie Abbott, John Clifton, Frank Draper, Earl Parker, Weldon Rosazza, John Schenk, Elmere Wright, and Grant Yopp were among the Bedford Boys who attended the high school and were later killed on D-Day. The class of 1944 erected a plaque on the grounds of the school to commemorate these young men and others from Bedford who died in World War II who had attended the school. It was a poignant reminder of sacrifice and the youthful generation who gave their all for the freedoms we enjoy today. Though the school stands damaged, it still stands, and we will remember the lives that graced its halls for generations – as well as the precious freedom that so many within it were willing to preserve.”