Auckland school blaze sparks arson probe

CIARA PRATT
Last updated 10:12 23/05/2014
School fire

FIRE DAMAGE: Freyberg Community School classrooms have been damaged by smoke following a suspicious fire this morning.

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A fire which ripped through a West Auckland primary school this morning has been described as devastating by the principal.

Emergency services were called to Freyberg Community School, on Roberts Rd in Te Atatu, just after midnight to find classrooms ablaze.

Fire Service spokeswoman Megan Ruru said those first on the scene were faced with a 500 sq/m fire "well involved".

A second alarm was put out and at its peak seven trucks were onsite battling the blaze.

It was under control within three hours and after an initial analysis, fire investigators believed the fire may have been deliberately lit.

Ruru said further testing may be carried out today.

Principal Christine Wilson is "devastated" and said the impact of the fire will ripple through community. 

"The school is like our family, it's like having your home burgled. 

"It's such a shame such a senseless act has caused so much damage. I just wish people wouldn't attack schools where innocent children go."

It is believed the fire began in a rubbish bin outside a classroom. 

The fire has caused extensive smoke damage to one classroom and minor smoke damage to the adjoining administration building and classrooms. Further damage is still being assessed. 

Staff were standing at the school gates this morning informing parents that the school is closed and pupils have been told to stay home today. There are plans to reopen the school on Monday. 

"We want to make sure it will be as safe as possible for the children," Wilson said.

Wilson is quick to praise the support of the school community and staff who have rallied together during "an emotional time". 

Freyberg Community School has a roll of 360 pupils and also houses a preschool, community education and a special-needs satellite unit. 

Surveillance and security will be increased on the school grounds over the weekend.

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