Police probe arson attack at school

PUBLISHED: 14:11 15 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:32 17 February 2020

Flames over Northgate High School in Dereham following an arson attack. Picture: Kim Pearce

Flames over Northgate High School in Dereham following an arson attack. Picture: Kim Pearce

Kim Pearce

Police have launched an arson investigation after a blaze at a high school.

Fire crews outside Northgate High School in Dereham following an arson attack. Picture: Kim PearceFire crews outside Northgate High School in Dereham following an arson attack. Picture: Kim Pearce

Emergency services were called at Northgate High School in Dereham in the early hours of Saturday morning following reports of flames being seen.

Fire crews from Dereham, Watton and Hingham attended the school site in Cemetery Road.

Lockers outside the school buildings were engulfed in flames and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus fought the fire and used a thermal imaging camera to check for hotspots.

Police were called to the scene after the cause of the blaze was identified as being suspicious and are treating it as arson.

Eyewitnesses described seeing a group of teenagers in the school car park shortly before the fire.

Daniel Hooks, who lives opposite the school, said: "I happened to look out of the bedroom window and saw a lot of kids hanging around outside the school. I got dressed and went out to see what they were up, to but they quickly went off down the road.

"Shortly after that we saw an orange glow from towards the school and when we opened the window we could smell smoke. We phoned the fire brigade and then I went over and woke the caretaker who lives on site.

"He has said it has done quite a lot of damage to the side of the building but if it had not been spotted earlier it could have been catastrophic and they probably would have lost the entire sports hall."

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A Norfolk Police spokesman said: "We were called to the scene at 1.15am by the fire service. When we attended there was a fire that had involved lockers. It is being dealt with as arson and is still being investigated.

"No-one has been arrested and enquiries are on-going."

Mr Hooks said: "I believe the school has CCTV so it will be interesting to see if they can identify those responsible."

The school has 1,105 students and is run by Unity Education Trust. The destroyed lockers are used by students to store items and may have contained books and coursework.

In a statement the school said: "We are very sad to have to confirm that there has been a deliberate arson attack on our school site.

"The damage is localised to the exterior of the sports hall and includes covered areas and some lockers.

"Over the half term we will be assessing all damage and action required for the lockers and items within. We will communicate to those affected later in the week to confirm all arrangements."

Police have appealed for anyone who might be able to help their investigation to come forward.

Anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity in the area between 12am and 1.30am should contact PC James Jarvis at Dereham Police Station on 101.

Alternatively contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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