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Buckholme Towers "picking up the pieces" after fire
8:41am Wednesday 13th March 2013 in News
A DEVASTATED school community in Poole is picking up the pieces after a ferocious fire tore through their beloved building.
The blaze at the independent Buckholme Towers prep school in Commercial Road, Parkstone, destroyed more than half the picturesque school including the roof and top two floors.
Buckholme Towers headmaster Iain Robertson said the school would be re-opening today to offer “accommodation for parents who need childcare”, with a view to education resuming fully tomorrow.
He thanked Mark Phillips at the neighbouring Parkstone United Reformed Church for providing space there.
Mr Robertson also sent thanks to the emergency and support services and to the local community for being “incredibly supportive” during the crisis.
“We are focusing on the education of the children and getting that up and running as soon as we possibly can,” Mr Robertson added.
He said: “This is a very sad day in the history of Buckholme Towers School but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is only a building.
“It is the children that are the heart and soul of the school and the most important thing is that they are safe.”
Around 10 schools in the area offered space to Buckholme Towers pupils in the hours following the blaze.
More than 35 firefighters were sent to the scene at Ashley Cross around 3am on Tuesday, “aggressively” fighting the blaze, which started on the first floor and rapidly spread upwards.
Crews spent three hours battling the flames before the incident was scaled back to concentrate on dangerous hot spots with firefighters removing debris including school work and equipment.
Two firefighters escaped from their own equipment when it broke down during the fire.
They were fighting the blaze from the cage of their aerial ladder platform when it became stuck and they were forced to climb down to safety under the protection of their colleagues’ water jets.
Ben Ansell, assistant chief fire officer, said the malfunction was being investigated. He said: “When the incident was at its height we had a malfunction in the aerial ladder platform where it lost its power and locked in position.
“The two operators had to climb down from the cage, using the external ladder, to safety while being protected by ground level hand-held covering water jets.”
The cause of the fire is thought to have been electrical, although Dorset Fire and Rescue Service says the the severity of the blaze has made it difficult to pinpoint the exact location.
Station manager Dave Graham said: “The fire spread fairly quickly and rapidly to the roof of the building.
“Six fire appliances – approximately 35 firefighters – were called to the scene, including an aerial ladder platform from Hampshire.
“We were aggressively fighting the blaze from 3am until 6am.”
He added: “I would like to think it’s repairable.
“The ground floor is okay but obviously it is going to need a completely new roof.”
Alanna McDonough, 26, who lives next door to the school, said: “We were woken up by the alarms going off.
“Initially we didn’t think anything of it as we often hear alarms but then we saw the flames which were higher than the chimney.
“All the smoke was coming in the windows and I could see the fire brigade putting on their masks.
“It was such a spectacle – it was literally at eye-level.
“The roof started caving in and the smoke was so bad it was coming towards us.”
The last firefighter left the scene at 4.45pm on Tuesday.