ATF joins investigation of fire that caused millions in damage to historic Waco school

Investigators were back at the school on Wednesday.
Investigators were back at the school on Wednesday.(Megan Vanselow)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:54 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) – The Certified Fire Investigation division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is joining the investigation of the fire that caused millions of dollars in damages to Waco’s historic G.W. Carver Middle School.

ATF investigators were at the school Wednesday.

The fire appears to have started in the front portion of the 65-year-old building, around the office and library.

The cause has not been determined.

Two-dozen firefighters responded to the school at 1601 JJ Flewellen Rd. at around 1 a.m. Tuesday.

The first crews on scene saw heavy smoke coming from the building.

Inside firefighters “found extremely high heat conditions leading to extensive fire progression,” officials said in a press release Wednesday.

“Within a short period, it was determined the fire was rapidly moving through the structure’s attic space and a second alarm, consisting of additional personnel and units was requested.”

Ultimately nearly 70 firefighters were involved in battling the flames.

The heavily damaged building won’t be available for the start of the new school year.

Carver’s 460 students will instead report for class on Aug. 23 at Indian Spring Middle School.

Indian Spring, like G.W. Carver, is operated as an in-district charter by Transformation Waco.

Staff from the two campuses, and Transformation Waco and Waco ISD officials will continue working through the logistics of the move.

Indian spring has a capacity of more than 900 students, but enrollment this fall is estimated at just more than 500.

The school might have been replaced even if it hadn’t burned.

A 60-member group of parents, educators and residents spent five months reviewing the district’s facilities and recommended earlier this month that the district replace G.W. Carver with a new school built at the same location.

The board recommended on-site replacements for Waco High School, Tennyson Middle School and Kendrick Elementary School, as well.

Waco School Board members could decide as early as August whether to order an election to seek voter approval on a proposed bond issue to fund the projects.

The fire was the second blow to the school’s students in a staff in a little more than a year.

The school’s principal, Phillip Perry, died of complications from COVID-19 on March 31, 2020, one of the earliest victims of the pandemic in Central Texas.

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