RICHMOND, Va -- The Richmond Fire Department (RFD) said the fire that happened at William Fox Elementary in February was accidental and the cause is undetermined.
The fire department explained that there is no evidence to support any deliberate or criminal act.
RFD released control of William Fox Elementary back to Richmond Public Schools (RPS), nearlyfive months after the school was destroyed in a February fire, according to RPS.
Richmond Fire took control of the site after the building went up in flames on February 11. Since then, fire and insurance investigators have spent months collecting physical evidence to determine the cause of the fire.
RPS has been waiting for RFD to finish its physical investigation of the building in order to move forward with stabilization.
Stabilizing the building would ensure the structure is secure and prevent the risk of collapse. RPS said it also needed to finish the stabilization process before it can install a temporary roof. Without a cover, Fox has remained exposed to the elements, raising concerns from community members and school leaders about further deterioration of the century-old building.
"Any exposure to elements within a construction site area will always be a concern, which is why the Superintendent and School Board voted and approved the emergency procurement to expedite selection and construction," RPS spokesperson Matthew Stanley said.
The fire department's release of the building has cleared the way for RPS to begin phases 2 and 3 of the stabilization process. So far, RPS has completed about one-third of stabilization, which focused on the immediate area suspected to be the start of the fire.
Stanley said further stabilization cannot be completed until the emergency request for quotation (RFQ) is completed, a firm is selected, and it provides its estimated timeline.
School Board Member Jonathan Young said responses to the emergency RFQ were due June 24, and board members will likely discuss them during a July 18 meeting.
The return of Fox to RPS also signaled a near end to the fire investigation.
"The truth is, it's been months and very little information has been released. That said, I do understand that perhaps, a report is imminent. I don't want to tease your audience, but I do anticipate that sooner rather than later, we should expect to hear more," Young said.
Young added he would be "most disappointed" if the report came back inconclusive.
"I think everyone is very anxious, frustrated, and ready to move forward," Young said.
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