Arson-hit school did not have sprinklers

A SCHOOL devastated in a suspected arson attack had did not have sprinklers, it was revealed today.The staff room and office area of Copleston High School was gutted when a blaze tore through the building overnight on Sunday, causing damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds.

A SCHOOL devastated in a suspected arson attack had did not have sprinklers, it was revealed today.

The staff room and office area of Copleston High School was gutted when a blaze tore through the building overnight on Sunday, causing damage estimated at hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Automatic fire alarms did sound but were not connected to the fire service control room and crews today revealed that the fire had been burning for at least half an hour before they arrived on scene.

Paul Seager, assistant divisional officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said the alarm system was up to date and typical of a public building where alarm systems were put in place to protect life.

He added: “There is no obligation on people who have fire alarm systems to have them linked through to our control room and there might even be technical difficulties with that.

“Nationally there are pressures being applied by the Chief Fire Officers' Association for a drive to install sprinklers in school buildings. That is as a result of national arson figures.

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“However, it has been some while since we had a significant fire in a school in Suffolk.”

Moira Bryan, spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the schools and fire service would be working together and, if lessons were to be learned from the blaze they would be taken on board.

Mr Seager said fire officers were not certain of the cause of the fire but said it started on the first floor level of the building.

He added: “We have been looking at the possibility that someone could have got on the roof and think a reasonably fit and agile person could find their way on the roof without too much trouble.

“We know which floor and which building the fire started in but that is it at the moment. We have some indicators to help us but appealing for anyone to come forward with video which could confirm some things.”

Mr Seager said there was some risk of collapse to the building as the fire had been fought and cracks had appeared in the brickwork.

The roof was completely destroyed in the blaze but the building remained standing.

He said he wanted to thank the caretaker and his assistant who had helped them gain access to the building and informed them of the lay-out and any potential dangers.

Police were linking the fire in the main building to another blaze in the gymnasium which they believe broke out later than the first.

An 18-year-man from Ipswich arrested on suspicion of arson on the night of the blaze, was released on bail yesterday until October 5 pending further inquiries.

N Anyone with information about the blaze should call Detective Sergeant John Dolan on 01473 613500 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

N Anyone with video footage of the blaze should call ADO Seager on 01473 588888.

N Has the fire at Copleston affected you or your family? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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