A PLUME of billowing black smoke could be seen rising from a burning Alnwick school as far afield as Powburn this afternoon, as firefighters battled to bring the blaze under control.
Motorists heading along the B6341 Alnwick Moor road were confronted by the huge pall as they neared the town, which spewed hundreds of feet into the air from the former St John’s RC First School on Lisburn Terrace.
Many left their cars on the verge to try to catch a glimpse of the unfolding drama, while a large crowd of onlookers gathered on the street in front of the Territorial Army Centre.
But when people began moving up the narrow lane which runs beside the school to get a better view, police officers moved them back, warning that the building’s windows could blow out due to the enormous heat and pressure building up inside.
Eyewitness Christina Goodwin, 18, said: “I was at the bus station down the bank on Clayport when I saw the smoke, so I headed up the hill to see what was happening.
“It was well on fire by the time we got there.”
Fire engines from four stations – Alnwick, Amble, Rothbury and even Seahouses – were drafted in to tackle the inferno, which by then was leaping from the roof.
Gazette senior reporter Robert Brooks, who was out driving with his children, said: “We were coming back from Powburn when we noticed a big black cloud of smoke rising from what looked like Alnwick Moor.
“As we went up Lemington bank, I thought there was burning taking place in a field, but once I got onto the Alnwick Moor road, it was clear that there was a massive fire somewhere in the area of the town.
“By the time I got to the Shepherd’s Rest pub, it appeared that the smoke was coming from Willoughby’s Bank, but it was only when I came to the junction with Lisburn Terrace that I realised there was something very serious happening in the area of St John’s.
“There were a lot of people standing in the street, just amazed at the scene unfolding before them.”
Colleague Helen Millichamp, who took pictures shortly after spotting the fire from her home in the south of Alnwick, added: “I couldn’t believe what I saw out of my kitchen window, so I grabbed my camera and jumped in the car.
“I followed the smoke and when I got to Lisburn Terrace you could feel the heat outside neighbouring houses. It was quite a frightening sight, but it didn’t deter others from watching the incident unfold.”
As of 4.30pm, the emergency services were still on scene.
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