POLICE are urging the community to come forward with information, after the computer suite at the University of Chester Academy in Rudheath was deliberately set alight.
Fire chiefs have praised more than 30 firefighters who helped overt an ‘even worse situation’, after the blaze broke out within the school’s IT room early this morning, March 25.
The academy is closed all day while teachers assess where to accommodate displaced children elsewhere in the school – ahead of a planned re-opening tomorrow.
Northwich Neighbourhood Policing Team Inspector, Paul Loughlin, confirmed that officers were treating the fire as ‘malicious’, and were due to commence studying CCTV images from the area to identify suspects.
“We consider this to be a very serious incident,” said Insp Laughlin. “It has caused disruption to a whole school community; the pupils, teachers and parents.
“We will see what CCTV is available around the academy and in the wider vicinity to see whether there is anybody pictured nearby that we would like to speak to.
“We’re also hoping that we can get some information from the local community, on who may or may not have been involved, and would urge people to contact us.
“We will listen to anyone who might have information on this fire.”
Cheshire Fire and Rescue station manager, Ian West, added: “This is an awful incident that has impacted on the local community, most especially the young people who should have been at school today, many of whom should have been studying for exams.
“The fire crews at the scene did a fantastic job in containing the blaze. If it had not been for their quick thinking and effective tactics we could have been facing an even worse situation.
“Arson is a crime that costs communities heavily.”
Five fire engines from stations in Northwich, Middlewich, Knutsford and Homes Chapel were joined at the blaze at 5.47am by the hydraulic platform and supporting appliance from Stockton Heath.
Firefighters – two wearing breathing apparatus – used two hose reel jets and a covering jet to contain the blaze, which began in a 30x15 metre computer room ands spread through the roof space.
Crews used a roof ladder to remove tiles and commence inspection of all the roof spaces in the school.
Once the fire was extinguished, one appliance and the aerial appliance remained at the scene to put temporary sheeting on the damaged roofs.
Anyone with information on the fire should call police on the non-emergency number 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Speaking after the fire, principal of the University of Chester Academy Northwich, Matthew Wood said: “Thanks to our ‘keep kids safe’ message alert system, we were able to inform families of the closure before 8am.
“It is expected that we will reopen tomorrow, Wednesday, however this will be determined by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service once initial investigations have been completed.
“We are currently planning how best to accommodate all our students within the rest of the academy premises to ensure learning can resume at the earliest opportunity.
“I would like to thank the emergency services and the local resident who alerted them for their timely and efficient response.”