Fire crews say someone broke into Chula Vista High School, may have intentionally set fire

Battalion chief says no fire alarms went off

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - No fire alarms went off during an early morning fire at Chula Vista High school Thanksgiving Day. No one was at school due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but thanks to two passersby, the fire department was able to respond and put out the fire quickly.

Fire investigators tell Team 10 if it were not for the good Samaritans who called in the fire, things could have gotten out of hand fast.

"Someone who was actually exercising in the area walked by and saw the fire and called the fire department," Battalion Chief Jeff Peter of the Chula Vista Fire Department, who was first on scene at the high school Thursday morning. "No, I didn't hear any alarms going off when I first got here, so it's actually pretty quiet. Just I had the two people here who reported the fire here."

It is a problem that Team 10 investigators have been looking into since July. Team 10 has been reporting on the issue of inoperable and broken fire alarm systems in the Sweetwater School District. More than 41,000 students attend Sweetwater schools. A parent Team 10 spoke to says broken fire alarms are a major safety concern and should be a priority. 

In July, a source told Team 10 about the problem at Sweetwater schools. Team 10 investigated and found 326 fire alarms didn't work. There were 485 equipment deficiencies. Eighty strobe lights did not flash and not to mention missing parts.

A parent who spoke to Team 10 says it is unacceptable.

"If you have one classroom that has no alarm, that is not OK," the parent said.

A source informed Team 10 that Chula Vista High School had just been working on the fire alarm upgrade in the cafeteria. 

"I'd rather not comment on something until the department has finalized their investigation," said Sweetwater Union High School District spokesman Manuel Rubio.

He would not comment on the alarms at Chula Vista High School, but insists all the schools are safe.

"Our concern is obviously safety, and with that said, we work directly with the fire department," said Rubio. "We've walked the campuses, and all our campuses with the Chula Vista Fire Department. Any concerns or any upgrades that need to be done are in the process of being done."

The school district confirmed that someone did break into the school and may have started that fire. The Chula Vista Police Department and fire investigators are looking into the fire and will determine whether or not this incident was the result of arson.

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