Huge fire rips through school

GALLERY A Suffolk middle school is facing total destruction after the main building erupted into flames.

Dave Gooderham

A SUFFOLK middle school is this afternoon facing total destruction after the main building erupted into flames.

Dozens of firefighters are currently tackling the massive blaze at St Felix Middle School in Fordham Road, Newmarket, after fire took hold shortly before 4pm.

Shocked parents, staff and pupils are struggling to come to terms with the “inferno” with concerns voiced about their future education and some fearing that the fire might have been started deliberately.

Alison Dent, a teaching assistant at the school, and her ten-year-old son, Daniel, a pupil, were shell-shocked by the incident with the youngster fighting back tears as he spoke about his future schooling.

His mother said: “I had a phone call from a friend saying St Felix was on fire - it is a huge blow. I wouldn't be surprised if it was an arson attack.

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“It is just lucky that the school was out as 400 people could have gone up in one foul swoop which doesn't bear thinking about.

“This is very sad and I feel physically sick. This fire could threaten our home as I don't have any other way to pay the mortgage.”

A nearby playing field had to be evacuated while massive diversions were put in place. Fire-fighters prepared to remain at the scene throughout the night as plumes of dense black smoke billow around the Suffolk skyline.

It is thought that as many as ten fire crews are currently on scene, from Newmarket and Haverhill, but initial fears suggest they will be unable to save the empty school building.

Jed Frost, whose daughter Robbie, 10, goes to the school, said he was scared about his daughter's education and described the fire “at such a good school” as devastating.

Sean Kenny, who lives close to the scene, said: “This is a sad day for the whole of Newmarket. We didn't realise the fire was quite as bad as this - I can't believe what has happened.

“We just thought it was a little fire but it is in fact a terrible inferno. It is just a blessing that everyone was on their summer holidays at the time.”

Upon hearing of the news, Newmarket Mayor Chris Turner, whose children went to the middle school, said: “This is absolutely devastating.

“St Felix is a school which has a lot of things going for it. A lot of youngsters in Newmarket and the surrounding villages have grown up and gone to the school and I feel for the staff, parents and children who currently go there and will have their education disrupted.

“I am gob smacked by what has happened as the school is an integral part of the town and you always expect it to be there. I just hope the grim predictions about not being able to save the school turn out to be wrong.”

Reports say that the fire can be seen as far as Bury St Edmunds - almost 20 miles away - but while paramedics are currently on scene, it is not thought that anyone has been hurt in the blaze.

Fire crews are expected to remain on site for most of the night while diversions around Exning Road have been put in place by police.

A spokesman for Forest Heath District Council said: “We've been made aware of the fire through our shared emergency planning unit in Suffolk.

“The smoke is drifting towards farmland so there is no immediate risk to people's life or health. The incident is under control and it's unlikely that the council will become heavily involved.”