MCS blames MPD for massive school fire

By Jason Miles - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Chopper 5 flew high above a huge blaze at the old Capleville School on Shelby Drive the night of November 6th, 2009.  Thirty-seven fire engines and nearly 100 firefighters responded.

The old school was a huge pile of debris more than four months later.  Memphis City Schools is now demanding the City of Memphis pay for the clean up.  MCS officials also want the city to fess up to possibly causing the fire.

"The MPD secured an unauthorized permit to use the old Capleville High School," wrote MCS General Counsel Dorsey Hopson. 

He said police used the old school for a training exercise involving explosives.

"We believe that these dangerous and unauthorized activities led to an explosion at Capleville which caused a devastating and costly, two-alarm fire that essentially destroyed the building," wrote Hopson in the letter sent to Memphis City Hall.

Memphis Police said they were not even on the old school campus the day of the fire.  However, they admitted a third party was there training military personnel.

Police would not name the third party but said they have documents that prove the explosives used could not have sparked the huge fire.

"The building is gone," said MCS Commissioner Martavius Jones.

While there will be no getting the building back, Jones believed its destruction may have been a blessing.   

"We don't have to worry about demolition to make the site attractive to a potential buyer," said Jones.

He regretted the fire fueled another controversy between the school district and the city.  He is hopeful both sides can eventually "re-build" their relationship.

Action News 5 was told an internal investigation has cleared the city and MPD of any liability.  That is despite the fact that the fire department has never determined a cause of the fire.

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