Lithium battery likely cause of Hopewell Jr School fire, chief says

Fire officials say it was a lithium battery that caused the fire.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 1:23 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:43 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WEST CHESTER, Ohio (WXIX) - The two-alarm Labor Day fire at Hopewell Junior School was likely caused by a lithium battery left charging in the coach’s office, Fire Chief Rick Prinz says.

The cause of the fire appears to be accidental and it was electrical in nature, a township spokeswoman already said, but this is the first time we’ve heard in detail what may have sparked it.

An extension cord that was coiled up and overheated under easy-up tents and a laundry basket full of jerseys and helmets may have contributed, the chief said.

He told trustees it’s either the battery or the extension cord - and they are leaning toward the battery, which he called “a huge problem for the fire service right now.”

He suggests people charge these batteries while they are awake “because they are prone to catching on fire.”

What’s more, the 50-year-old school has no sprinklers.

That’s because it was built in 1973 before they were required and updates to the building over the years have not been enough to require sprinklers being added, the chief said.

The fire department responded to the fire right away after the smoke detector in the building went off, but it still took them 17 minutes to pull up, exit fire trucks, get set up, go into the building and find the fire they put water on it.

Multiple area fire departments responded, including as far away as the city of Cincinnati, who brought in a huge fan that ventilated the school once the fire was out.

Had there been sprinklers at Hopewell Junior, the devices would have put out the fire right away and triggered the fire department response, according to the chief.

“The damage would have been much, much, much less than what we saw here today,” Chief Prinz told the trustees. “Most of Lakota’s buildings do have sprinklers, but there are a few of them that do not have sprinkler systems.

The condition of Hopewell Junior School is classified as “deficient” by the district, according to Lakota records.

FOX19 NOW asked a Lakota spokeswoman Thursday how many schools don’t have sprinklers.

We also asked if the issue was going to be discussed by the school board.

Those answers were not provided.

Meanwhile, Hopewell Junior students are continuing to attend class in West Chester Nazarene Church on Tylersville Road.

District officials originally hoped to have them back in the school building within two weeks, but the chief fire said only a portion will be open for them to return by Oct. 25.

After that, he said it would take several weeks to have the whole school cleaned and ready to go for complete occupancy.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please click here to report it.

Do you have a photo or video of a breaking news story? Send it to us here with a brief description.