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Arsonists blamed for special school fire

PUBLISHED: 09:39 11 April 2007 | UPDATED: 17:01 26 February 2010

The aftermath of the fire blamed on arsonists at the Edith Borthwick Special School in Bocking Churchstreet

The aftermath of the fire blamed on arsonists at the Edith Borthwick Special School in Bocking Churchstreet

ARSONISTS are being blamed for a fire that tore through a special needs school in Essex and took seven fire crews more than two hours to put out.

Police are investigating after flames took hold in several buildings at Edith Borthwick Special School in Bocking Churchstreet, near Braintree.

Another view of the damaged school

ARSONISTS are being blamed for a fire that tore through a special needs school in Essex and took seven fire crews more than two hours to put out.

Police are investigating after flames took hold in several buildings at Edith Borthwick Special School in Bocking Churchstreet, near Braintree.

Storerooms and classrooms at the Church Street school were destroyed in the blaze, although fortunately nobody was injured.

Residents said the street was temporarily closed off while firefighters, who had to break into the school to access its water supply, tackled the incident.

Resident Carol Hills, who works at the neighbouring Bocking Churchstreet Primary School, said: “There were two or three fire engines parked outside my house. The flames were as high as the roofs and you could see them from the main road. It was quite scary, really.

“The smell was awful. There were sparks flying around and several parents turned up to see what was going on - it was quite emotional.”

Fire crews from Coggeshall, Wethersfield and Colchester and two each from Braintree and Halstead attended the blaze on Monday night, as well as a command support unit.

Two portable classrooms were completely destroyed by the fire, which started at about 9.30pm, with other nearby buildings also affected.

Divisional officer Mark Wilson said the “quick actions” and “professional skills” of firefighters had stopped the fire from destroying more of the school.

He added: “Firefighting hoses were not long enough to reach from the mains water hydrant at first so firefighters broke into the main school building and ran the hoses through the middle so they could get water on to the blaze as quickly as possible.”

Cylinders stored in the buildings caused further problems for firefighters as they exploded after the flames took hold.

The fire took around two hours to extinguish and fire crews remained at the scene for most of the night to damp down the affected area.

Yesterday fire investigators and police scenes of crime officers were at the school investigating the incident.

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said staff at the school were hoping to get the mess cleaned up in time for the start of term.

She said: “It should have no impact on the children's education. They are hopeful the buildings will be secured by the time the children return and there will be no issue with the continuing education.”

nFirefighters in Braintree used a thermal imaging camera to help stop a garage fire spreading to nearby houses yesterday .

They managed to contain the fire, which broke out in a garage between two houses, and prevent it causing further damage.

Two crews from Braintree attended the scene at about midday and used hose reels and breathing apparatus to tackle the flames, which were extinguished within 40 minutes.

elliot.furniss@eadt.co.uk

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