Investigators determine abandoned elementary school fire arson

PRICE HILL, OH (FOX19) - Investigators looking into a fire at an abandoned elementary school have determined that it was deliberately set.

District 2 firefighters responded to a call of heave smoke at the old Quebec Heights Elementary in the 1600 block of Ross Ave in Price Hill just before 5 p.m. Monday night. A fire was discovered in the gym and was knocked out quickly. However, most of the wooden floor has to be cut open and dismantled.

Fire Chief John Zompero says the outcome could have been differently because the building "is totally unsecured with almost all of the doors opened and nearly all of the windows broken or opened; proving easy access to vandals and curious children."

School District spokeswoman Janet Walsh says vandalism is a concern. Walsh says "We certainly do not want it to be a safety hazard. Unfortunately vacant buildings almost anywhere are magnets for vandals, but we're going to be vigilant and increase security and do what we can to make sure that the site is as secure as possible."

Walsh also says the building is scheduled for demolition within the next 30 days.  She says "It is in everybody's interest that we get that demolition contract awarded as soon as possible."

School superintendent Mary Ronan has recommended the school not be rebuilt because of declining enrollment and the state has refused to fund it.

Both of the fire hydrants inside the building were disabled without fire department notification. "Both of these conditions provide a dangerous environment for firefighters and the public as well," said Chief Zompero.  The fire department is now trying to determine why the hydrants were turned off.

Walsh says the school district met with the fire department Tuesday morning to discuss safety and security at the abandoned school.  She says fire fighters have been told to use extreme caution in the event another fire breaks out at the school.

The fire did about $20,000 in damage to the gym floor. Investigators are now trying to determine who set the blaze.

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