June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Police: Recent grad started fire at Medina High School

MEDINA — A 19-year-old who graduated this month from Medina High School was arrested and charged with arson following a fire Tuesday morning at the school’s Performing Arts Center.

Davon L. Phillips, of West Friendship Street, is being held at the Medina County Jail on a charge of aggravated arson, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 11 years in prison.

Davon Phillips

A jail corrections officer said Phillips will appear before Medina Municipal Judge Dale Chase this morning.

Phillips was employed there as a custodial worker, according to a news release from the Medina Police Department.

He was part of the Medina County summer work experience program sponsored by Medina County Workforce Development and Job and Family Services, according to a news release from the school district.

Residents at Phillips’ home declined to comment.

“We have participated in this program in past years and have always been pleased with the youth referred through this program,” said Jon Burkhart, the district’s director of business affairs. “It is very unfortunate that this incident occurred.”

Phillips was arrested by Sgt. Brett McNabb and Detective Joshua Grusendorf with the assistance of Donald Illig and Brian Peterman, deputy state fire marshals.

Burkhart expressed thanks to firefighters, adding, “I would also like to acknowledge our maintenance crew for their quick response to the situation and their work on clean-up operations.”

Mayor Dennis Hanwell said: “This was great teamwork from firefighters, investigators and school officials. Our detectives got on it quick and didn’t stop until they had the answers.

“I’m proud of them all.”

The fire was reported at about 7:35 a.m. when an alarm went off inside a loading dock on the southeast side of the school, off Weymouth Road.

Medina Assistant Fire Chief Mark Crumley said the sprinkler system started and a fire curtain dropped, just as they’re supposed to, containing the fire on the loading dock.

Medina Schools maintenance workers look on as a fire at the school's Performing Arts Center sends smoke into the air for more than an hour Tuesday morning. A recent graduate, Davon Phillips, 19, was arrested and charged with arson in relation to the fire. No one was injured. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY NICK GLUNT)

“That sprinkler system did the job,” Crumley said.

Fire investigators said the room is in the rear stage area and was used to build sets for productions at the Performing Arts Center and held a supply of wooden building materials. The fire burned part of a wood pile inside the dock.

No one was injured in the fire, but damage could slow upcoming shows.

Mike Sferro, president of the Medina County Arts Foundation, and theater manager Vicki Calvin said they were worried the theater had been damaged, but were relieved that work hadn’t started on building sets for two upcoming shows, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Songs of a New World.”

The two shows will go on as planned and rehearsals still will be held at the high school.

Sferro said security cameras, which are activated by motion sensors, kicked on at 7:20 a.m. when the fire started.

School ended June 5. Students attending summer classes were sent home because of the fire. [br]

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com. Reporters Loren Genson, Kiera Manion-Fischer and Andrew Davis contributed to this story.

Nick Glunt About Nick Glunt

Nick Glunt primarily covers courts and crime in Medina County. He served The Gazette from September 2012 to December 2015. Contact him at (330) 721-4048 or via email at nglunt@medina-gazette.com.