Wednesday, 8 August 2018


A LARGE fire that destroyed eight mobile classrooms at a former school in Dungannon is being treated as arson, Police have confirmed.
Firefighters were called to the scene on the Killymeal Road at 8:15pm on Sunday as clowds of smoke and flame engulfed the sky above the disused St Patrick's Academy building.
Over 40 firefighters, five fire engines, one aerial appliances, two water tankers and a command support vehicle scrambled to the dramatic blaze and managed to stop it spreading to the main school building.
A PSNI spokesman said "Police are treating the incident as arson" and have asked that anyone who noticed suspicious activity in the Killymeal Road area on Sunday to contact detectives.
A video was circulating on Monday afternoon of a number of young males setting what appeared to a stairway on fire, which is rumoured to have been at the former Dungannon school site.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said if it was deliberate, it was a "mindless act that put firefighters' lives in danger".
The fire, which was eventually extinguished by 2:13am, is believed to have been started in the vacant portacabins in the centre of the site and Group Commander Max Joyce from NIFRS said the crews worked hard to stop the large fire spreading to the main derelict building.
“People are setting fires without considering that the fire could spread and that they or other people could be hurt," he said.
He said there was a large blaze when crews arrived and a smoke plume that could be seen "from many miles away".
Mr Joyce added if the fire had not been prevented from spreading to the main building "we would have been there for a very long time" and that indications pointed "towards deliberate ignition".
“We often find that where there is derelict property, not secured or whatever, there is an opportunity for fire starting," he said.
“But what I'm saying to those people is that they need to think about the consequences - not only could they hurt themselves in setting the fire, but they could hurt members of the public or firefighters who are out there to serve their local community."
Local MP Michelle Gildernew thanked the emergency services for their swift response, and urged people to be cautious.
“Whether accidental or deliberate, fires are incredibly dangerous and destructive so I would urge everyone to exercise extreme caution," she said.
“I would also like to appeal to everyone to report any suspicious activity, as the deliberate lighting of fires is reckless and completely unacceptable."
Denise Mullen, Dungannon SDLP councillor added: "It's such a shame to see this happen. Even if it is now the old school building, many people from Dungannon and the surrounding areas were educated there."
Nearby residents said they had received letters to say the building was about to be demolished via a controlled explosion.
St Patrick's is due to officially move into its new school building a short distance away from the original Killymeal Road site at the start of September.


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