Blaze destroys school

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THE former headteacher of a school destroyed by fire has described the blaze as ‘disturbing’.

Firefighters spent nearly eight hours tackling the inferno at the disused St John’s School building on Lisburn Terrace on Saturday while onlookers watched.

A firefighter tackles the fire at the former St Paul's School building in Alnwick. Picture by Steve Miller

A firefighter tackles the fire at the former St Paul's School building in Alnwick. Picture by Steve Miller

One of those was Maria Wilson headteacher at the school, now St Paul’s RCVA First based on South Road.

“It is good that nobody was hurt considering the intensity and that includes the bravery of the fire service and locals who were watching really close by,” she said.

“It ravished the building and I know that myself and past parents and pupils were certainly disturbed to see the building destroyed in such a ferocious way.

“We all have many happy memories of the school. Fortunately we have the new school and we are thriving at the moment, for us the phoenix has already risen from the ashes.”

Crews from stations at Alnwick, Amble, Rothbury and Seahouses were called to the blaze at around 2.50pm.

Plumes of smoke billowing from the blaze could be seen across the town, and as far away as Powburn and Shilbottle as the fire engulfed the building.

But firefighters managed to save a third of it.

At the scene on Saturday Danny Stephenson, from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, admitted the incident had caused wide-spread destruction.

“Large areas have been extensively damaged. We managed to save a third of the building but areas where there has been fire are extensively damaged,” he said.

His colleague Mark McCarty said that the fire was so intense that he was unsure where the blaze had started and crews had attacked it from three different areas.

“Two appliances were sent after a number of calls that there was a fire,” he said.

He also described the fire as intense.

Police were also at the scene on Saturday and moved onlookers away as they tried to catch a closer glimpse. Officers were also there overnight to prevent anyone from entering the burnt out shell.

The building is owned by Northumberland Estates who have been given planning permission for a housing estate on the land.

A spokeswoman for the Estate said: “The reason for the fire has yet to be confirmed and we are extremely grateful to the fire service who did a fantastic job in containing it so quickly and efficiently.

“The Estate always does its best to keep empty sites such as this secure but in cases where individuals prove intent on gaining access, this can prove difficult.”

Police are treating the area as a crime scene while investigations are still under way.