Firefighters save Doncaster school after arson attack

Teaching assistant Claire Hurst (left) and teacher Jo Hager view fire damaged classroom at Windhill Primary School, Mexborough.
Teaching assistant Claire Hurst (left) and teacher Jo Hager view fire damaged classroom at Windhill Primary School, Mexborough.
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YOBS who tried to burn down a Doncaster school failed after sharp-eyed firefighters spotted the blaze while attending another incident.

Their prompt action saved what could have been serious damage to Windhill Primary School at Mexborough, although the reception classroom has been put out of action.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said relieved headteacher, Jeanette Guy, yesterday.

The classroom will still need to be re-decorated after suffering smoke damage from the incident in the early hours of yesterday.

A fire appliance from Dearne station was sent to Coniston Court in Mexborough just before 12.45am to deal with a burning wheelie bin.

But, while putting the fire out, the team could see other flames coming from nearby Hollingworth Close and when they went to investigate realised the blaze was at the school.

A second Dearne crew was dispatched and the firefighters found the school’s play area was on fire and flames were licking at the doors and windows of a classroom.

The fire was quickly extinguished but windows had cracked and smoke entered the room used by the reception year children.

Ms Guy said lengths of old wallpaper taken from bins elsewhere had been used by the arsonist to start the fire.

“They had put the fire next to the reception class doors and it has damaged that room, which will now need refurbishment. We have boarded up the damage and moved the children to another classroom.

“They have lost some of their artwork but they have other pictures round the school, and they are very resilient at that age.

“This could have been a lot worse because the play area is at the back of the school and is not visible from the road. They have climbed over a 6ft high fence to get into the grounds.

“I would like to say a big thank you to the fire service, our neighbours and parents who have been very supportive at this time,” said Ms Guy.

CCTV from the school is now being studied to assist the police inquiry.

South Yorkshire Police yesterday appealed for information from the public about the two arson attacks, which are being linked.

A spokesman said: “It is believed the play area matting at the rear of the school, which is predominately made of plastic, was moved and pushed up against a set of doors, which were then set on fire causing the windows to smash and damage to the doors.

“A second incident was reported at Coniston Court, where a fire had been started in a wheelie bin and pushed up against the door of a community centre, causing damage to the door and guttering.”

The police spokesman said a 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson.

Police are appealing for anyone with information to contact them on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting incident number 35 or 40 of April 25.