Fire claims classrooms

05:59, Aug 11 2014
Paraparamu School fire
BURNING: At least four classrooms and the library at Paraparaumu School have been destroyed by fire.

A fire that destroyed much of Paraparaumu School tonight has been extinguished.

Four classrooms and the school's library containing archival photos and teaching resources were destroyed in the blaze, which broke out at about 6.45pm. 

Fire engines from Otaki to Wellington were called to the scene, and eight pump engines were fighting the fire by 8.15pm.

school fire
BLAZING: The scene at Paraparaumu School where a fire has taken hold.

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The fire was being dampened down by 9pm, and was extinguished by 9.30pm.

Several fire crews would remain on scene tonight, and fire investigators were already analysing the damage, central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said.


Paraparaumu School principal Steven Caldwell
HUGH LOSS: Paraparaumu School principal Steven Caldwell outside his burning school. "The kids are going to be devastated."

A hundred people had gathered on the street to watch the school burn.

It was unclear if the fire was suspicious, school principal Steven Caldwell said.

''We have no idea how it started, whether it was deliberate or not. We'll just have to work our way through it.

''All the archival photos for the school have gone. Teachers have lost 15 to 25 years of resources. Just gone.''

The school of 160 pupils was due to celebrate its 125th anniversary this year.

The school would be closed tomorrow, with no indication of when it would reopen.

''The kids are going to be devastated,'' Caldwell said.

The fire measured 40 metres by 10 metres when the Fire Service arrived at the scene at 7.20pm, after multiple 111 calls from the public, Fire Service spokesman Dunbar said.

A firefighter was taken to hospital around 8pm with minor burns and heat exhaustion.

Caretaker Ross Ambler had worked at the school for 17 years and said the four classrooms destroyed in the fire were built in about 1920. The library was only built five years ago, he said.

Fire service assistant area commander Paul Smith said the roof of the classroom block collapsed while ablaze.

He praised the dozens of fire fighters who battled the blaze tonight.

''The guys did an excellent job - three quarters of the building was involved in fire and they were able to contain it,'' he said.

The Dominion Post