Wednesday 18 September 2019

Boy (14) charged after more than 80 firefighters battled 'suspicious' blaze at Scottish school

A teenage boy has been charged after more than 80 firefighters worked overnight battling a
A teenage boy has been charged after more than 80 firefighters worked overnight battling a "suspicious" blaze at a high school in Fife. @Euans_EP/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire

Douglas Barrie, Conor Riordan and Benjamin Cooper

A teenage boy has been charged after more than 80 firefighters worked overnight battling a "suspicious" blaze at a high school in Fife.

Fifteen fire appliances attended the "large and complex" incident at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline, along with two height appliances, after the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) was called at 5.05pm on Sunday.

Crews remained on the scene well into Monday morning as the flames spread through the building.

There were still 10 fire engines and a height appliance, alongside several support vehicles, remaining at the school site around midday.

Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire

The school, located about 20 miles north-west of Edinburgh, announced it would be closed to all pupils on Monday.

Police Scotland said a 14-year-old boy has now been arrested in connection with the blaze, which it is treating as suspicious.

He is due to appear at Dunfermline Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

A message on the school's Twitter account by rector Sandy McIntosh said: "We are all utterly devastated by what has happened to our school.

Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire
Handout photo taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @Euans_EP of emergency services attending a fire at at Woodmill High School in Dunfermline. @Euans_EP/PA Wire

"I will be meeting with our teachers and school staff this morning, along with staff from the Education Service and wider Fife Council to put in place plans for our young people.

"My heartfelt thanks go to the emergency services for all they have done to save our school.

"Updates will be provided to our parents through groupcall as soon as we have more information. School closure information will be updated on Fifedirect.org.uk."

Deputy First Minister John Swinney also said: "Terribly sorry with the news @WoodmillHigh. @scotgov has been in contact with @FifeCouncil and will discuss next steps. Good wishes to all in the school community at this tough time."

Speaking on BBC's Good Morning Scotland, local councillor Fay Sinclair, convener of Fife's education and children's services committee, said flames could still be seen coming from the building on Monday morning.

She also said: "Plans started to be put in place yesterday; that was when we thought the fire was confined to the (department of additional support).

"Obviously those are some of our more vulnerable pupils who need a lot of support and we are still getting something in place for them as soon as possible as an absolute priority.

"Over the night the picture's changed somewhat. The main building is now damaged and so the council's emergency teams will be meeting this morning to start looking at what are the options here.

"We're talking about 1,400 pupils displaced from the school at least for the short term.

"Dunfermline's been a rapidly growing town over recent years, all of the schools are very full so there's not an immediate place to move all of these pupils to."

No casualties have been reported. Monday is not a bank holiday in Scotland.

Roddie Keith, SFRS local senior officer, said: "This was a complex incident and our crews worked through the night in challenging conditions to contain this fire and prevent further spread within the building.

"Through effective planning, they surrounded the fire and extinguished the flames.

"However we will remain in attendance for some time yet as we check for any hidden fire spread and also work to dampen down any remaining hot spots."

He added: "Our advice remains that members of the public should avoid the area to allow access for emergency service vehicles."

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