Students resume classes at Hopewell Junior School after Labor Day fire

Fire officials say it was a lithium battery that caused the fire.
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 5:12 PM EDT
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Video from previous coverage.

WEST CHESTER, Ohio (WXIX) - Students returned to Hopewell Junior School on Tuesday after a fire on Labor Day forced classes to move to a nearby church.

The school said only a few classes, choir and band, and lunch periods, are still taking place at Faith Community Church as the second phase of restoration continues.

All classes were initially moved to the church following the fire at Hopewell Junior School.

The fire was likely caused by a lithium battery left charging in the coach’s office, Fire Chief Rick Prinz said previously.

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.

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