RICHMOND, Va. -- Fox Elementary School suffered "catastrophic damage" when a fire ripped through the school in Richmond's Fan District on Friday night.
An alarm went off at Fox Elementary, along the 2300 Hanover Avenue, just before 9:30 p.m. Friday, according to dispatch records.
Richmond Fire Chief Melvin Carter told reporters Saturday the department is not certain if it was a fire alarm, a motion detector, or a burglar alarm. He said they are still investigating what type of alarm was triggered.
The chief said fire crews responded, gained access to the building by letting themselves in and searched the building.
He said they stayed and investigated for nearly 42 minutes, which means they left around 10:10 p.m., and did not notice any fire or smoke while there.
Carter said they were then dispatched back to the building for a fire call at 10:40 p.m. and found the structure on fire.
"Once on scene, they encountered heavy smoke and flames coming from the top floor above the main entrance. The fire was quickly spreading across the top of the structure," Richmond Fire spokesperson Amy Vu wrote in an email."At approximately 11:09 p.m., parts of the roof began to collapse, so all crews were evacuated from the interior."
The fire was marked under control at about 2:44 a.m.
"Crews will be on scene through the morning to monitor hotspots," Vu said. "No injuries have been reported."
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
In an email to parents, Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras asked the community to pray for Fox Elementary families, students, and staff.
"As you can surely imagine, the Fox community is reeling this morning," his email read. "We are working with Principal Jacobs on a continuity of learning plan for Fox students, and will have more details on this tomorrow for families and staff."
The school will be closed Monday and Tuesday before shifting to virtual learning.
"We want to give everyone time to process the events and make the necessary academic preparations," Kamras said.
School leaders are working to figure out which RPS property the Fox community will call home as the damage to the historic building is assessed.
"We are looking at a couple of options,"Kamras explained. "One of those is Clark Springs Elementary, which we sometimes use as swing space. We're exploring the feasibility of that right now, but because it's going to take a little bit of time, we're switching over to virtual in the meantime."
Principal Daniela Jacobs said that the loss of the 110-year-old building does not diminish the school's spirit.
"It's not about a building,” Jacobs said. “The Fox spirit lives within each and every one of us in this community. We will manage this together."
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