SHOCKED residents told how they saw flames shooting out of York High School and small explosions like the sound of fireworks.

Chris Jackson, 50, who lives about 50 yards from the school in Tudor Road, said the first he knew something might be wrong was when he smelled burning and heard what he thought at first was a car alarm or burglar alarm.

“I didn’t think too much of it at the time because the smell wasn’t too strong, but at about 6am I saw a fire engine arrive and its crew broke open the school gates with cutting equipment, which was when I realised what was happening at the school,” he said.

“I could hear small explosions which sounded like fireworks being set off from inside the building, and the police were asking people if they were OK and telling them to shut their windows because of the fumes – there was acrid smoke everywhere “It’s a real shock to see something like this happen right on your doorstep. Pupils will have lost a lot of their work and people have already started to wonder why this fire started.

“I’m sure people around here will be talking about it for a long time and I just feel really sorry for everybody at the school.”

Gavin Evans, 39, of Lowfield Drive, said the first he knew something was wrong was when he woke up and discovered his home was without power.

“I looked out and saw a huge plume of flames,” he said.

“There were massive flames over the trees and black smoke everywhere. There were firefighters coming down the street looking for the hydrant, because they didn’t have enough water.”

Dan Durrant, 32, who lives opposite the school in Dijon Avenue, was leaving for work at around 5.30am when he spotted the flames leaping into the sky.

“I could see the fire between the houses on the other side of the street and could immediately tell it was serious because the flames were coming over the roof of the school,” he said.

“After I got to work, my wife was phoning me to tell me what was going on and said lots of people were gathering outside the school and police had arrived to control the crowd because it was getting quite large.

“Firefighters were apparently running up and down the streets near the school looking for fire hydrants.

“It’s a real shame for something like this to happen, especially with the school being so close to moving, and people living nearby will have a lot of questions about how it started, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens from here.”

The blaze was so big that firefighters had to draw on water mains as far afield as Gale Lane, Woodthorpe and Green Lane and rolled their hoses out along street after street. It was the only way to get sufficient water pressure to fight the flames. Inside the cordon, fire fighters were making sure the building was safe and staff and governors were discovering the extent of the damage.