Fire sparks college evacuation

HUNDREDS of students were evacuated from a busy college in Colchester yesterday after a fire broke out in a third floor classroom.Ten girls were taking part in a hairdressing competition on the third floor of a Colchester Institute campus building in Sheepen Road when a hairdryer overheated and caught fire.

HUNDREDS of students were evacuated from a busy college in Colchester yesterday after a fire broke out in a third floor classroom.

Ten girls were taking part in a hairdressing competition on the third floor of a Colchester Institute campus building in Sheepen Road when a hairdryer overheated and caught fire.

The flames set other equipment and chairs alight, producing thick black smoke from the plastic material.

The incident happened at about 10.30am, as Carolyn Straughan, a health and beauty learning support assistant, watched over the girls, aged 14 to 15.


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She said: “My first thought was just to get them all out and get everybody else on the floor out. Then I just wanted to get the fire brigade in and they were here within minutes.

“There were two other classes on the third floor too. We have fire marshals on all floors and we had a practice two weeks ago, so everybody knew to get out quickly and calmly.”

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She said the students used lots of hair sprays but windows were left open for ventilation.

One of the girls, Zurina Sheen, 14, said that it was only a “little” fire at first, but they were quickly told to evacuate.

She said: “Our assistant pressed the fire alarm button and we all went downstairs. It all happened very quickly.”

Six crews, five from Colchester and one from Brightlingsea, attended the scene, as well as ambulance crews and paramedics.

Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus put out the fire and searched for casualties, but all staff and pupils were quickly accounted for and nobody was injured.

Station Officer Dick Nunn said: “The staff at the institute did an excellent job evacuating the building, the procedure was carried out quickly and efficiently, everybody was out of the building in a matter of minutes.”

An institute spokeswoman said: “The damage is limited pretty much to the one salon, which has been badly affected. But because of the fire doors, apart from some smoke and heat damage in the corridor it did not spread.”

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