SOME 70 fire fighters from across North Yorkshire were sent to tackle the flames at York High School in Acomb today.

The mass turn-out represented about one third of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's troops in the area.

The fire was discovered by a patrolling police officer at about 5am this morning, who notified his control, and they in turn notified the fire service.

The central block which was gutted contains science laboratories, IT suites, art and food science classrooms. The school’s 970 pupils and staff were sent home, with head teacher David Ellis saying a decision would be taken later today on what would happen on Monday.

“I feel very sad,” said Mr Ellis. “The building is seriously damaged.”

Danny Westmoreland, group manager with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said 12 appliances and two aerial ladders were mobilised, and succeeded in preventing the fire from spreading to adjacent blocks.

“The fire is under control but we need to ensure it does not re-ignite,” he said.

Eye witness Gavin Evans, 39, of Lowfield Drive, said: “I saw a massive, huge plume of flames above the trees and lots of smoke.”

He said that electricity supplies to his and other local homes had been cut off.

Around 100,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the blaze, and this has meant that the water supply to other premises in the vicinity were affected Coun Andrew Waller, who is chairman of the governors at York High as well as council leader, said the authority would be working with the head teacher today to try to ensure that children’s education could resume as quickly as possible.

“Clearly it is one of the last things you want to hear as chair of governors that your school is on fire,” he said. “I have come down to meet the staff and pupils to see what we can do. The priority is to maintain education. My heart goes out to the kids whose coursework isn’t there.

“There are urgent meetings going on with the education department. Contingency arrangements are being made. We have to know from the fire brigade how usable the school is. We have to ensure the continuity of education as it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

More to follow...

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