Investigators find accelerant in old Bedford Middle School fire, confirms arson

Police still searching for suspect, accelerants taken to medical examiner for testing

BEDFORD, Va. – Police are still looking for the person responsible for setting the old Bedford Middle School on fire.

In pictures sent to 10 News, the person is carrying a backpack and you can only see the back of their head. It’s the only picture police chief Todd Foreman says they have right now.

“We’re not going to make a guess. We’d rather have the facts before we determine whether it’s a man or woman. That’s why the press release said a person,” Foreman said, “We’re still looking for cameras to see if we have a picture of their face.”

On Friday, fire marshal investigators were back on scene trying to make their way inside.

“The fact that the roof burned off, the walls are just kind of standing there. The one wall started to lean a little bit. We felt it was unsafe to get investigators in there,” said battalion chief Leo George III.

To help out, a structural engineer and steel company were called to build a skeleton that will hold the walls up while they focus in a classroom on the right side of the school.

“There are certain characteristics that we look at. Both on the walls, debris, burn pattern,” George said.

Police say they’ve got proof this person tried multiple times to start a fire throughout different parts of the building.

Investigators tell us they found accelerant on the first floor.

10 News was the only station there as we watched them carry it out in evidence bags.

Fire at old Bedford Middle School
Fire at old Bedford Middle School (WSLS)

We even saw a K-9 from the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office on scene to sniff out the material.

“Where the dog alerted, the areas the dog alerted there should not have been accelerants in those areas,” George said.

Chief Foreman says they’ve received a lot of helpful tips from the community and are following up on those leads. Police are confident they’ll find this person soon.

“If they’re watching they need to come and turn themselves in. That would be the best for them,” Foreman said.

Firefighters say the school is a total loss. Investigators are still working to figure out the cost of damage too. The accelerants have been taken to the medical examiner’s office to determine what it is.