Flint, MI— The Flint Fire Department was called to a fire at the vacant Zimmerman Center School building around 5 a.m. on Oct. 31.

Officials said the fire was small and contained to two rooms in the building and Flint Community Schools officials were notified.

“It burned through the plywood covering on the window in the one room and then at the front door right next to the front entrance,” Battalion Fire Chief Mark Kovach said.

It took firefighters less than two hours to exterminate the fire, Kovach said.

This is the third fire in less than a month for Flint Schools. On Oct. 7 Washington Community School caught fire in the early morning. Then on Oct. 8, fire officials were called to Flint Northern High School.

Police Chief Terence Green said he was not aware of the fire at Zimmerman but that the previous two fires are still being investigated.

The former Zimmerman Center School in Flint, Mich. caught fire in the early morning of Oct. 31, 2021. (Carmen Nesbitt | Flint Beat)

“I don’t want to speak for the investigators, but I’m assuming they’re waiting on testing and evidence to come back from the lab to determine if it is actually arson or not,” Green said.

Though fires at Flint Northern and Zimmerman were small, Washington Community School was destroyed.

Flint Community Schools closed Zimmerman in 2013 in response to the district’s then $16.5 million budget deficit. It has been sitting abandoned since.

Flint Northern and Washington closed in 2014, also due to the district’s budget deficit. 

Over half of Flint schools have closed over the past decade due in large part to declining student enrollment, as fewer students means less state funding. As it stands, the district faces an $18 million deficit.

In August, the Flint Community Schools Board of Education voted to sell some of its 22 vacant properties as part of a deficit elimination plan. Nine properties were listed on the district’s website by September. Zimmerman, Washington, and Flint Northern are not among them.

Carmen Nesbitt

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...

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2 Comments

  1. Why are all the too many vacant schools not demolished?? The longer they stay up, the more they become targets for arsonists and vandals. I am SICK of hearing about them getting burned up. They need to be demolished and NOW! What is taking the School BORED too long to get them demolished?? They are embarrassments and public eye sores we do not want to see! TEAR THEM DOWN! They are all too wrecked up to restore or reopen. We got more school closed than open and this is despicable in Flint. Please tear them all down now, including the way too long vacant Lowell Junior High and Flint Central High on the east side. Vandals keep going in them to do more damage and post it online. They laugh it off too! Get rid of them!

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