Felsted: Investigation begins into cause of major fire at school building

AN INVESTIGATION was due to begin yesterday into a major fire at a boarding house at a prestigious north Essex school.

Nine appliances attended the blaze at Follyfield Boarding House at Felsted School, near Great Dunmow, on Sunday at about 7pm.

While the three-storey boarding house was not being used by pupils from Felsted School as term had ended, Stafford House language school was in residence.

A spokesperson for Essex County Fire & Rescue Service said the building - which was built in 1929 - was not entirely empty when the fire broke out.

About 25 students were staying there, although not in the same part of the building where the fire started, and all were safely evacuated by staff before the fire service’s arrival, the spokesperson said. It is thought the students were aged between 10 and 16.

The blaze involved all of the roof, as well as a substantial part of the first floor and some of the ground floor.

Crews had been fighting the fire from within, but were forced to withdraw from the building because it was too unstable for their safety and tackled the flames from outside.

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Yesterday afternoon two appliances were still at work at the scene turning over and damping down to ensure no hot-spots remained.

A spokeswoman for the fire service said the investigation was ongoing so nothing was ruled in or out at this stage.

Yesterday, Chris Townsend, deputy headmaster (pastoral) at Felsted School, said: “The Follyfield Boarding House fire is now under control and an incident report will be filed in due course ascertaining the cause and the exact extent of the damage.

“No-one was hurt and the school’s evacuation procedures proved highly effective. Felsted is committed to its students for September and plans are already under way to ensure that we provide for the girls affected.

“We have been inundated with messages of support from the Felsted community and the spirit that Follyfield engenders is evident. This is a sad event for the school, but one that we are confident we will overcome.

“Parents of the girls immediately affected will be contacted today. The headmaster, Dr Mike Walker, is flying back to Felsted from his summer break to oversee the situation.”

A spokeswoman for Felsted School said during term time up to 60 girls aged between 13 and 18 used the boarding house.

She said they were looking for alternative accommodation for the students who would be using the building in September and the house mistress who lived there with her family.

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