PARMA, Ohio — Cleanup crews filed in Monday morning, starting the slow process of picking up what’s left inside St Anthony of Padua Elementary School in Parma after investigators announced someone broke inside over the weekend and started a fire in the school’s basement.
Parma firefighters responded Saturday to St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School for a fire reported in the building's basement. A maintenance worker discovered the fire and called 911 shortly before 10 a.m.
“I went into the basement stairwell and it’s loaded with smoke,” the caller told dispatchers. “The light wouldn’t go on and I couldn't enter the building because there’s too much smoke.”
“There’s several classrooms on the first floor with fire damage, the basement had significant structural and fire damage and there’s smoke throughout the entire building,” TJ Martin with Parma Fire told News 5.
Martin estimates the school could be dealing with upwards of $1 million worth of damage.
As the church bulletin posted on their website points out, this comes just a couple of weeks after someone vandalized the school’s St Anthony of Padua statue, knocking it over a pedestal.
Investigators with Parma Police told News 5 that as of right now, it doesn’t appear the two crimes are connected.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish said classes would be canceled at the school at least through next week and a spokesperson told News 5 they’re still sorting out the situation and damages, and have not set up any official fundraising efforts as they continue to work with their insurance provider.
A cash reward of up to $5,000 is available for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
Anyone with information on the person or persons responsible is asked to contact the State Fire Marshal tip line at 800-589-2728, Parma Police detective March Karkan at 440-887-7323, or the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 216-252-7463.
“This shouldn’t have happened; help us solve this crime,” Martin said.