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Midvale school set for demolition a safety concern for residents, law enforcement

Published: Wednesday, May 1 2013 2:33 p.m. MDT

Midvale Elementary School, which is closed and slated for demolition, in Midvale on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

Marc Weaver, Deseret News

MIDVALE — The old Midvale Elementary School set for demolition has residents in the area concerned after arsonists set several fires inside the building.

Hanging awnings and shards of glass didn't deter arsonists from setting multiple fires Monday, April 29, inside the school at 362 W. Center (7720 South).

Unified Fire Capt. Clint Mecham said at least eight and as many as 10 fires were set, including one in the gymnasium and several on the second floor.

Mecham said the fires were small and crews were able to douse the flames quickly. But the fire could have been worse and could have spread to other parts of the neighborhood, he said.

"(It's) extremely dangerous when you come to not only the building itself being compromised, but then you add the component of fire to it, and it becomes just unpredictable," Mecham said.

Fire and police officials have responded to at least 10 calls about vandals in the school since January, most of them within the last two months.

"This building has been a constant source of concern for us," Mecham said. "Because it's under demolition, there are so many holes in the structure. It's hard to secure them all."

The old elementary school has been vacant for the past year, and those who live nearby say demolition can't come soon enough. Neighbors say the property is an eyesore and a hazard, and they want it gone.

Teri Eggett, who lives on the south side of the school, said she has seen troubling activity inside the building.

"There were kids on the roof, and I saw shadows inside and I heard glass busting," Eggett said. "It's just scary that way because I don't know who's in there and I have kids, and I don't want them being around my neighborhood."

Allen Tippetts, who lives just east of the school, said he has seen kids using the playground fenced inside the property lines. The fence, he said, has only been there a short while.

"It was either Friday or Saturday that the fence went up," Tippetts said. "The windows were taken out of the building quite awhile before then, so it was accessible to vandals before that."

Law enforcement officials have been monitoring the school inside and out every day.

"This will continue to be a problem for us, we're sure, until the building is completely demolished," he said.

Tippetts said he hopes the new fence and increased patrols in the area will help keep vandals out of the building.

"We would just like it taken down as quickly as possible so that it isn't a hazard," he said.

The Canyons School District also has security teams patrolling the building. But the district has a partnership with law enforcement to use the building for fire safety training, which delayed the demolition.

"When they need to have a training facility, and we have precisely what it is they're looking for, then we allow that," said Jennifer Toomer-Cook, Canyons spokeswoman.

Toomer-Cook said the district owns the parcel of land, but the Board of Education in mid-April approved Mackay Demolition Co. in Bountiful to handle security and demolition of the property.

"We're working with the demolition company to get the building demolished," she said.

Toomer-Cook said the company told her that will happen sometime next week.

Email: niyamba@deseretnews.com

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