Crime - Sacto 911

James Rutter Middle School closed after ‘suspicious’ fire damages classrooms

An early morning fire Thursday damaged three classrooms at James Rutter Middle School before firefighters could extinguish the blaze.

The cause remains unknown for the fire at the campus on Palmer House Drive in the Florin area of Sacramento County.

“There are some suspicious elements,” said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Capt. Chris Vestal, but he said investigators are waiting to see the results of lab tests, which are expected Friday. Fire investigators are being assisted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department as well as the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, he said.

Due to “extensive damage to the core area of the school,” officials decided to close the school on Thursday and Friday. Classes will resume Monday, April 17, following next week’s spring break.

Principal Kenneth Smith said in a letter to parents Thursday afternoon that the fire remains under investigation.

“I want to assure you that the school had been inspected by Sacramento Metro Fire during its last scheduled inspection cycle,” Smith stated in the letter. “The intrusion alarm and the smoke alarm alerted emergency crews who responded immediately.”

Updates will be available on the school’s Facebook page and through the school notification system.

Vestal said that a school alarm system alerted fire dispatch to a problem at the school about 1:30 a.m. Thursday. When firefighters arrived, they went to an alarm panel that told them the specific location on campus where the alarm had activated.

At the same time, a passerby reported smoke coming from a wing at the rear of the school. Responding firefighters found heavy flames and smoke.

The fire attack began and the fire was upgraded to a second alarm before it was extinguished by 2:30 a.m. Three classrooms suffered fire and smoke damage, Vestal said, and three others sustained only smoke damage.

A classroom rabbit, Sophia, was saved and is in good condition.

Anyone with information pertaining to the fire is asked to call the Elk Grove Unified School District Safety and Security Department at 916-686-7786.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews