Arson suspect held over Copleston fire

A SUSPECTED arsonist was being questioned by police today after an arson attack almost destroyed Copleston High School in Ipswich.As firefighters and specialist investigators being inquiry into how the fire was started, the suspect was being held at Ipswich police station.

A SUSPECTED arsonist was being questioned by police today after a blaze almost destroyed Copleston High School in Ipswich.

As firefighters and specialist investigators began an inquiry into how the fire was started, the suspect was being held at Ipswich police station.

Police were unable to confirm the identity of the person currently in custody or their age.

Around 100 firefighters were called to the blaze shortly after 11pm yesterday.

Flames stretched high into the sky as massive plumes of smoke could be seen coming from the older part of the school.

Fifteen fire crews from Needham Market, Felixstowe, Bury St Edmunds, Holbrook, Hadleigh, Debenham, Sudbury, Nayland, Ipswich and Stowmarket, were despatched to the scene as the scale of the inferno became apparent.

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Specialist support units were also sent including a turntable ladder, used to fight the fire from above.

Firefighters problems were compounded by a smaller, second fire, at the other end of the building near the girls' gym.

Assistant divisional officer Paul Seager, who was at the scene, said: “It was a very severe fire in the main staff room and main reception area.

“We managed to prevent it spreading to the science block. There was serious damage to the ground floor and first floor, and the roof has gone.

“We were very concerned about it spreading through the school, because schools are normally built around a system of corridors and we had concerns it would spread through all the corridors and other parts of the building.

“We were using so much water at the front that we were very short of water at the back initially until we found a second fire hydrant.

“We probably got the fire under control by about 2am.

“Most of the teaching blocks appear to have escaped totally or were pretty lightly water-damaged. The staff room, staircases and accommodation areas around there in the block that was affected by the fire were extensively damaged.”

Residents from the surrounding area watched in disbelief as the flames consumed a large section the school.

Police had sealed off the entrances to the school as crowds gathered to watch the firefighters.

One onlooker said: “A crowd of about 30 people gathered in an alley at the side of the school to watch as the building was gutted.

“The whole front car park of the school was filled with fire appliances and firefighters gathered on a lawn outside the main building planning their next point of attack and fitting their breathing equipment.”

An incident control team planned the firefighting task from a forward control point in the school car park.

One the school's deputy heads at the scene said he was determined to get the school up and running as soon as possible.

Copleston's former deputy head teacher Wolfe Powell was today appalled to hear about the news from his former school.

Mr Powell said: “I was with my successor, Anne Ager, only yesterday and she was talking enthusiastically about the start of the new school year.

“She sent me a text today to say what had happened - it is absolutely appalling.

“But I know many of the staff and some of the pupils that are there and I know they will be absolutely determined to get things back to normal as soon as possible - that's what teachers do.

“The school will come back stronger, I am sure of that.”

N Keep looking at the Evening Star's website, www.eveningstar.co.uk, for updates throughout the day.

N Has the Copleston fire affected you or your family. If so, telephone the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788.

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