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Did Richmond Schools' bus depot have a fire alarm? What we know so far.

Posted at 3:57 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 18:27:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An employee with Richmond Alarm told Richmond Public Schools that they were able to reprogram the fire alarm panel at the school system's Chamberlayne Avenue transportation depot with the 804 area code remotely back on February 18, according to an email obtained via FOIA.

However, Richmond Schools, building owner Thalhimer Realty Partners, and the Richmond Fire Department have not answered questions yet about whether there is a fire alarm in the depot, which burned to the ground Wednesday morning, and whether an alarm went off.

No injuries were reported -- but up to six buses and two other vehicles were damaged beyond repair.

Richmond School bus fire.jpg

Richmond Schools does not own the building located at 1903 Chamberlayne Avenue. It leases the building from a company called TRC Chamberlayne, LLC, which stands for Thalhimer Realty Partners.

The lease was set to expire on June 30, 2022.

In May, Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras asked the School Board to approve a one-year extension on the lease at a cost of nearly $113,000 for one year.

Matthew Raggi with Thalhimer, who is the registered agent for the property, said he would not answer questions about fire alarms until the investigation into the fire was complete. He suggested the CBS 6 Problem Solvers reach out to Richmond Schools with questions because the school system was responsible for the building's maintenance and operations.

Matthew Stanley, a Richmond Schools spokesperson, said he was working to gather information about the fire alarm and whether one dialed 911 or the alarm monitoring company.

A previous CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation found many Richmond Schools buildings, including William Fox Elementary which was destroyed by a fire earlier this year, were never reprogrammed with the area code, and therefore could not dial 911 in the case of an emergency.

The Problem Solvers asked Richmond Fire if there is a fire alarm at this location, and if it dialed 911 to report the fire, and spokeswoman Amy Vu said she is looking into it, but as far as we knew the department found out about the fire from people who witnessed it and called 911.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.