RICHMOND -- West Contra Costa School board president Charles Ramsey said Thursday he will ask the district to speed up plans to demolish an empty middle school campus where arsonists struck this week.

Adams Middle School in East Richmond Heights closed in 2009, but its demolition had not been on the district's radar, Ramsey said, until five separate fires were set on Tuesday evening.

"Look at all the vegetation. This could have gotten ugly quick. It's a wake up call to the Board of Education," Ramsey said.

Arsonists scaled piping to break in through a second-story window and then lit five separate fires inside the Patterson Circle campus at about 11:05 p.m. Three of the blazes were set in hallways and two were inside classrooms, said Contra Costa Fire Capt. Robert Marshall.

The firebugs torched desks, tables and classroom materials piled on classroom floors. An alarm inside summoned authorities and fire sprinklers likely "saved the entire building from burning down," Marshall said. Up to $30,000 in damage was caused. Four people were stopped nearby but were not arrested, police said.

Cleanup crews were taking all combustible material out of the school on Thursday. Several windows were broken and others were boarded up.

The campus opened in 1959 and was one of three schools the district board voted to close amid budget cuts in 2009.

The district plans to put portables on the site to be used by Wilson Elementary School students during construction of a new Wilson campus.


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Ramsey said he plans on bringing up the demolition of Adams at an upcoming district meeting and may suggest hiring a security firm to patrol the campus in the meantime.

"What choice do we have?" Ramsey said.

David DeBolt covers breaking news. Contact him in Richmond at 510-262-2728. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.



Workers clean up the wreckage left by four small arson fires at Adams Middle School in Richmond, Calif., Thursday, July 17, 2014. Vandals broke into the
Workers clean up the 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 closed to the public since 2009, and caused significant damage to the structure. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)