The quick actions of school staff and Wexford Fire Service resulted in a potentially destructive fire being brought under control at the Presentation Secondary School last Tuesday (September 11).
The fire broke out shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday night last and the fire service were promptly alerted to the incident. Two units were tasked to the operation, along with a fire station van which was used as the incident command vehicle. Rostered Senior Fire Officer Ray Murphy was also on the scene.
Two teams of firefighters entered the building using breathing apparatus and located the small fire, under an extraction cabinet, in one of the science laboratories. Due to materials in the lab such as rubber hoses and pipes, as well as various plastics, there was considerable smoke.
It is understood that the fire was a result of an electrical fault in a valve. One lab was badly smoke damaged while the second lab also suffered some damage.
Mr Murphy explained that there was further concern over the presence of a chemical store locker which was located between the two labs: 'That contained various chemicals for science experiments, sulphuric and hydrochloric acids, etc. We were conscious that it had been exposed to considerable heat so the crew put on chemical protection suits and removed that cabinet outside the building. The school arranged for its safe disposal on Wednesday.'
The senior fire officer also stressed the importance of the school's fire protection safety system and alarm, saying that the keyholder, the school caretaker, had responded very quickly to the alert and to confirm the fire to the fire brigade. He also commended school principal William Ryan and two vice principals who were on the scene very quickly and took great care to ventilate the rest of the building, opening windows and ensuring fire doors were closed.
'The staff's rapid response was key to the fire being contained. If the response to the alarm hadn't been so quick, a lot more damage would have been done. They basically saved the school from further damage.'
School Principal, William Ryan equally praised the fire service, describing their quick response as 'unbelievable', adding that they had given great advice to them after the incident as well.
'Thankfully, the fire was contained and the clean-up operation is under way,' he said on Wednesday afternoon. He stressed that the school was completely empty at the time of the incident and said they were lucky that everyone had acted on time.
'It was my first experience with fire and hopefully it will be the last! Life goes on and we get back to normal.'
He said students had collected their Junior Cert results from the school on Wednesday morning and they were very happy with the high results that had been achieved. He said the lab would be refurbished as soon as possible, adding that new
On Thursday last, study was provided for third and sixth year pupils, with classes for third and sixth years resuming on Friday. All years returned to class on Monday. The school is due to celebrate its bicentenary in a few weeks time and will see further development with work on a new school wing due to commence this year also.