December 6 2013 Latest news:
Matt Stott and Lauren Everitt
Sunday, September 1, 2013
An investigation is underway after a major blaze devastated an infant school in north-east Essex.
More than 50 firefighters tackled the inferno at John Ray County Infant School in Notley Road, Braintree, at its peak.
A total of 13 fire engines were mobilised to the scene after receiving reports of the blaze at around 4.20pm.
The Essex County Fire and Rescue Service incident commander on scene said: “A single storey building, measuring 50m x 50m, is 90% well alight.”
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus carried out salvage operations at the school to bring out what could be saved from the building.
Eye-witnesses have described their shock at the blaze, with reports of another explosion at around 6.10pm.
Stacey Cosens said on Twitter: “John Ray Infant School’s roof has caught on fire. Large flames and plooms of smoke can be seen in the area.”
Hundreds of people lined the streets to watch the drama unfold. Roads in the area were cordoned off, according to reports.
Homemade Braintree tweeted: “Actually so saddened by the news of john ray primary school. Hopefully the community will come together to help in any way they can.”
Rosie Chamberlain, who lives near the school, said: “My dad says it was really bad. The smoke did stop for a bit but now it’s clouded the sky darkly nearly over my house.”
Senior Divisional Commander Danny Fearn, incident commander, said around 50 firefighters tackled the blaze on three sices and worked in punishing conditions.
“Crews had to be withdrawn because of the dangerous structure of the building and the intensity of the fire for their safety but we are now making steady progress,” he added.
“Crews are using the aerial ladder platform, three jets and one hose reel in firefighting operations.
“Initial crews arriving at the scene were faced with a well developed fire covering most of the building so they had little chance of saving it.
“The priority was to protect surrounding risk - the junior school building and homes close by.
“They are all now protected as crews work to bring the fire under control.
“Operations are being hindered by limited water supplies.
“It is likely that the entire infant school building will be destroyed but we have tried to salvage what we can from the building.”
Mr Fearn confirmed that two men, aged 18 and 35, who were believed to have been carrying out building works on the infant school roof, were affected by smoke inhalation.
They were left in the care of the ambulance service.
Firefighting operations continued overnight and by 4.30am, Notley Road was reopened to traffic.
Crews left the scene at just before 1pm on Sunday.
A joint Police and Fire Service investigation will now be carried out. An Essex Police spokesman said the blaze is not being treated as suspicious.
A total of 267 pupils attended the school last year, an Ofsted report said.
Did you witness the blaze? Has it affected you? Get in touch. Call 01473 324739 or email email@example.com