RICHMOND -- The Contra Costa County Fire Department is investigating who may have started several small fires at Adams Middle School that damaged a classroom and main assembly area Tuesday night.

The fires-- four in all -- were discovered around 11 p.m. in the main building of the school, according to Acting Battalion Chief Steve Akre. Another fire was extinguished early Wednesday morning and all are considered suspicious. The fires caused smoke and water damage throughout the school, Akre said.

Adams Middle School has sat vacant since 2009, following a decision by the West Contra Costa Unified School District to relocate its 800-plus students in the wake of a budget shortfall that prevented mandated seismic upgrades to the building. Since then, windows have been covered with plywood and security locks installed on gates in an attempt to keep squatters out.

Wreckage left by four small arson fires at Adams Middle School in Richmond, Calif., Thursday, July 17, 2014. Vandals broke into the building, which has
Wreckage left by four small arson fires at Adams Middle School in Richmond, Calif., Thursday, July 17, 2014. Vandals broke into the building, which has been close to the public since 2009, and caused significant damage to the structure. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

Despite the district's best efforts, there are still plenty of "access points" for someone intent on accessing the property.

"The longer it sits empty, the more likely of a target for vandalism it becomes," Akre said.

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