Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Columbus school board approves $150,000 toward Valley Forge fire cleanup - The Columbus Dispatch

Columbus school board approves $150,000 toward Valley Forge fire cleanup - The Columbus Dispatch


Columbus school board approves $150,000 toward Valley Forge fire cleanup - The Columbus Dispatch

Posted: 10 Sep 2019 04:59 PM PDT

An electrical fire charred a Columbus City Schools elementary classroom over Labor Day weekend, forcing the Columbus Board of Education on Tuesday night to approve spending up to $150,000 for repairs.

The district's insurance company also is investigating whether the contractor who installed the new LED lighting fixtures that sparked the fire is liable. Infinite Vision, based near Cincinnati, did the work the week of the fire, Columbus City Schools spokesman Scott Wortman said.

A fire alarm sent Columbus firefighters to Valley Forge Elementary School on the Northeast Side about 1:15 a.m. Aug. 31, according to a city Division of Fire report. Firefighters responded within five minutes to extinguish the blaze in Classroom 1 on the building's north side. No one was in the building at the time and there were no injuries.

That classroom was badly damaged and is still unusable. Seven other classrooms, two bathrooms and a hallway also sustained smoke damage.

Though the total cost of damages hasn't been calculated, the estimate is for as much as $300,000, Jeff Roe, the district's energy manager, told board members Tuesday night.

The lighting upgrades involved converting fluorescent lights to energy-saving LED lights while keeping and rewiring the ballasts that regulate current. Fire investigators believe one of the retrofitted lights sparked the fire, Roe said.

In addition to the lighting upgrades, Valley Forge, built in 1963, recently received roofing, HVAC and asphalt upgrades as part of Operation: Fix It, a $125 million district facility improvement initiative launched in 2017.

Overall, about 40,000 lights have been replaced without issue, Roe said.

The charred classroom must be preserved as evidence while investigations by the parties involved continue. Small fires have ignited in new light fixtures in four other schools — Columbus Alternative high and Fairwood, North Linden and Innis elementary — within a day of receiving similar upgrades, though there was no significant damage, Wortman said.

Evolved, of Columbus, and Control Smart, of Dayton, installed lights at two of the schools and Infinite Vision in the other two. The incidents involved different products and manufacturers.

A phone message left for Infinite Vision wasn't returned Tuesday night.

Following the fire, SERVPRO of Northeast Columbus, a fire- and water-damage restoration company, cleaned up the seven other classrooms and other areas.

Kindergarten classes at Valley Forge were canceled for the week following the fire, and first-grade classes were canceled Sept. 3 and 4. All other classes resumed.

Columbus Public Health said Valley Forge isn't a risk to students, officials said.

awidmanneese@dispatch.com

@AlissaWidman

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