TULSA - The massive fire that destroyed the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences may lead to some changes across the Tulsa Public Schools district.
School officials now say the historic former Barnard Elementary school building had four smoke detectors. The closest one to where the fire started was located in the main entrance area. Emergency crews were alerted to the fire by a motion sensor alarm.
The school was built in the 1920s when smoke detectors or sprinklers weren't required. But even today, without them, the building would still meet the fire code.
It's been exactly two years since Assistant Fire Marshall Doug Lewis inspected the building.
"I found no code violations, everything was up to par," Lewis said.
The building was due soon for another inspection. It had some motion detectors and a built-in firewall. But Lewis believes sprinklers would have saved it.
"If we had sprinklers, we'd still have a building," he said.
Firefighters faced an extra challenge with the building's metal roof. Lewis says it made it harder to put out the fire.
"Code now says that they can't put a roof over a roof. When they did this, I think it was 1996," Lewis said.
TPS now uses metal roofs with built-in smoke vents for renovations. But a handful of elementary schools still have this kind of roof.
"I think we'll probably be going back and looking at that, to see if we can just put some vents in for exhaust even, just to get the heat out. Or I would imagine on the next one we would go back and sprinkle that top story," said LaBass.
In the meantime, the district is updating several older schools with sprinkler systems. But officials say that will take years to do this as they struggle with a tight budget. A new sprinkler system for Wilson Elementary just cost $225,000.
"You know the buildings are safe. I think the public needs to realize that. They are alarmed, so we know when something's going on to get the children out," LaBass said.
TPS says all of its schools are up to fire code.
Meanwhile ATF fire investigators say they're more than half way through the fire investigation. They have not determined a cause of the fire yet.
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