Firefighters from Blackpool were drafted in to help tackle a devastating blaze which tore through a Lancashire high school.
Crews from Forest Gate and South Shore were called to help fight the flames at St Mary’s Catholic Technology College in Leyland on Sunday evening and the early hours of Monday morning.
And teams from St Annes, Wesham and Fleetwood were put on call to attend other fires which may have broken out around Leyland while the town’s crews were at the school.
Lancashire Fire and Rescue spokesman John Taylor said: “We had 20 fire engines and crews in Leyland, which accounts for about a third of our total resource and takes a considerable chunk out of what we have.
“We do have a measure to strengthen our cover by making adjustments and redirecting our resources.” Mr Taylor said Blackpool’s crews were on the scene, with an aerial platform ladder and a hazardous materials unit late on Sunday to around midnight.
The blaze, which broke out shortly after 4pm on Sunday, is reminiscent of when Devonshire Road School in Layton was set alight by two juveniles, aged 10 and 12, in August 2003, causing around £7m of damage.
More than 50 firefighters tackled the Devonshire fire, which caused extensive damage, destroying two halls, a new library and nine classrooms.
Mr Taylor said: “This is not unprecedented in terms of a school building with Devonshire Road and the Brindle Gregson Lane Primary School (near Preston) a few years ago which was razed to the ground and had to be rebuilt.
“Those were deliberate fires, as this one is suspected to be, and had huge repercussions on the vital education of young people. I hope that things will be managed in a way that has a minor impact on the school and the community.” Three crews from Leyland and Chorley were still at the scene on Monday afternoon. Four children were arrested following the fire at St Mary’s, which was due to reopen to pupils today.
Lancashire Police said the boys, aged between 11 and 15, had been released on police bail until September 30 after being held on suspicion on arson. A statement on the school’s website said the fire had caused “devastating damage” and asked people to “pray for the school at this difficult time”.