Camden News - by SIMON WROE Published: 31 July 2008
Fire engines outside Rosary RC Primary School yesterday morning after fire wrecked classrooms
Classrooms are destroyed by blaze
‘A hell of a blow’: Investigation after primary school suffers major damage in morning fire
FIRE teams are investigating the cause of a blaze which destroyed a complex of classrooms at a top Belsize Park primary school yesterday morning (Wednesday). The damage at Rosary RC Primary School in Haverstock Hill was described as “a hell of a blow”.
Six fire engines and 30 firefighters battled the blaze for three hours, after the alarm was raised at around 6am.
Five classrooms in two pre-fab buildings at the rear of the main building were destroyed, according to firefighters at the scene.
Haverstock Hill was closed off in both directions and buses were diverted while brigade crews fought to stop thick clouds of smoke reaching the nearby Royal Free Hospital.
Rosary was described as “outstanding” following an Ofsted inspection earlier this year.
Hampstead Town ward Conservative councillor Chris Knight warned that the loss of teaching space could be disastrous for an area where educational resources are already strained. “The pressure on school places in Hampstead and Belsize Park was bad enough, but to lose these classrooms is a hell of a blow,” he said.
Camden’s schools chief, Councillor Andrew Mennear, said he was “saddened and shocked” by the fire, adding: “My heart goes out to everyone associated with the school. “I know how difficult this must be for those who have put a lot of time and effort into the school.”
He promised that the council would work with the Catholic Church and the school to ensure that Rosary would be “able to operate properly come the start of the new school year”.
None of the buildings required evacuation as pupils and staff were on summer holidays at the time, but it was a nervous morning for Kirit Patel, the owner of the BP petrol station just 50 yards across the road.
He said: “When I came into work at seven o’clock this morning there was a lot of black smoke. “It was going straight towards the hospital. They shut the footpaths and the road completely for three hours.”
Mary Harrigan, who lives in nearby Russell Nurseries, said she had seen “a big ball of smoke” three storeys high. “I saw the road was cornered off and there was a fire engine in the playground,” she said. “There was lots of smoke.”