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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Wednesday, 7 November 2007, 17:59 GMT
Fire crews control school blaze

The new £9m school was nearing completion
Blaze tackled
A fire which destroyed part of a £9m new school in Falkirk, due to open next year, has been extinguished - 15 hours after it took hold.

More than 50 firefighters were involved in the operation at Maddiston Primary to contain the blaze, which began at about 0100 GMT on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Central Scotland fire and Rescue Service said a three-storey section of the building was destroyed.

An investigation into the cause of the blaze was due to get under way.

About 320 pupils were due to move into the school, which is currently under construction, in 2008.

An area of the building which was to contain the main entrance and library was worst hit by the fire.

'Classroom wing'

The rest of the building has been affected by smoke and water damage.

A spokesman for the fire service said: "The service has worked extremely hard to contain the fire to the central section of the building to protect the classroom wing and dining hall area.

"Now that firefighting operations have concluded, the process of fire investigations can begin."

The entire school and the local community are extremely sad at the damage that has been caused
Gary Greenhorn,
Falkirk Council official

The blaze led to the closure of the current Maddiston Primary which sits a short distance from the new school.

Parents and teachers were alerted to the school's closure via phone and text message from the council.

Acting head teacher Helen Granville said staff and pupils were saddened by the fire.

She said: "There is such a strong sense of community in Maddiston and the school is at the heart of it.

"Everyone was looking forward to moving to the new school, however, the pupils will be back tomorrow and we hope that the delay won't be too long."

Local MP Michael Connarty said it was a "tragedy" for the pupils, who had been looking forward to getting into their new school.

He said the community had been campaigning for the school for about 15 years.

"I was in the old school talking to the children just two weeks ago and they were so excited about going to the school," said the Labour MP.

"It is a tragedy because it looks like the children are going to have to wait quite some time to get into their new school, if it can be saved at all," said Mr Connarty.

Roads surrounding the site affected by the fire have been closed.

The new school, currently being built by Graham Construction, was scheduled to open in early 2008 with a projected capacity of 434.

Gary Greenhorn, head of educational resources for Falkirk Council, said a meeting would be held with the contractors to discuss how to proceed.

He said: "The entire school and the local community are extremely sad at the damage that has been caused by the fire.

"It is a major setback to our plans, however reconstruction will go ahead as a matter of priority."

A spokesman for the building company said: "Graham Construction is aware of the incident at Maddiston Primary School this morning.

"The fire service and police are currently dealing with the matter.

"At present the site is sealed off for safety and investigation purposes.

"Graham Construction are unable to make any further comment at this time."