Lightning strike sparks devastating blaze at school just months after 12m refit is completed following fire a decade earlier


Lightning strike sparks devastating blaze at school just three years after 12m refit is completed following arson attack
Members of the public dialled 999 when they spotted flames at 7am
More than
60 firefighters were still trying to tackle the blaze at 5pmSchool burned twelve years
ago after an arsonist targeted a science lab

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UPDATED:

17:37 GMT, 27 December 2012

A bolt of lightning is understood to have sparked a devastating fire which destroyed large parts of school today, just three years after it had undergone a 12million refit following an arson attack in 2000.

The blaze erupted in the roof of the arts and theatre block of Lytchett Minster School in Poole, Dorset after a huge storm, and quickly spread through the rest of the two-storey building.

Members of the public dialled 999 when they spotted the 20ft flames and huge plume of smoke. Crowds of teachers and students raced
to the scene as more than
60 firefighters tried to put out the blaze.

Blaze: Flames rip through the roof and upper floor of Lytchett Minster School near Poole in Dorset, in a fire thought to have been started by a bolt of lightning early this morning

Blaze: Flames rip through the roof and upper floor of Lytchett Minster School near Poole in Dorset, in a fire thought to have been started by a bolt of lightning early this morning

In a cruel twist of fate, the school was only recently fully reopened after a 12 million rebuild following a fire in 2000

Panic: More than 60 firefighters battled the flames throughout the morning. In a cruel twist of fate, the school was only recently fully reopened after a 12 million rebuild following a fire in 2000

Storm: The fire is thought to have been started by a bolt of lightning early on Thursday morning

Storm: The fire is thought to have been started by a bolt of lightning early on Thursday morning

Firefighters were called just after 7am but they were still trying to douse the flames by late afternoon

Firefighters were called just after 7am but they were still trying to douse the flames by late afternoon

Crews from Dorset, Devon, Hampshire
and Somerset have been tasked to help with the inferno that has left the
building a blackened shell.

The fire began at approximately 7.05am on Thursday morning and had still not been fully extinguished by 4pm.

The school caught fire twelve years
ago after an arsonist targeted a science lab, which spread to other
laboratories, the humanities and maths blocks, and the theatre.

Probe: An investigation will be carried out into the cause of the fire when the building is safe to enter

Probe: An investigation will be carried out into the cause of the fire when the building is safe to enter

An investigation will be carried out into the cause of the fire when the building is safe to enter.

A spokeswoman from Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said: 'The building is 100 per cent involved in fire and is a shell.

'It started in the roof of the theatre block which is separate to the rest of the school and

there is a lot of combustible material inside.

'There was a big thunderstorm this morning so we believe it may have been caused by a lightning strike that hit the roof.

'There are 60 firefighters here but the fire is still going and I expect we will be here for at least 24 hours.

Becky Ballard, 21, who lives opposite the school said: 'I was woken by the biggest bang I have ever heard, it really shook me.

'Then not long afterwards we heard the sirens and realized the school was on fire.'

'It's a terrible shame for the school to have this happen again. I am a former pupil so I have a great attachment to it.'

Dave Arundel, station commander at
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said that firefighters have been tackling
the blaze from the outside because it is so unsafe.

He said: 'Initially, crews saw flames from the roof so we believe this to be a lightning strike.

'Firefighters forced entry and
tackled the fire internally, but it became clear that it was unsafe to
do and we have been fighting the fire externally since then.

'Many of the students and teachers
have been here and seen the devastation, they have simply fallen to
their knees to see their work and classrooms going up in flames.

'Although it is a scene of
devastation, it is also a big relief that it was not term time with
students in the grounds or buildings.'

Lytchett Minster School was built in 1821 and converted into a manor house in 1890.

Devastation: It is believed that the fire was started by a bolt of lightning however a full investigation will be carried out when the building is safe to enter

Devastation: It is believed that the fire was started by a bolt of lightning however a full investigation will be carried out when the building is safe to enter

The school is set in remote grounds around a large historic building that is believed to have escaped damage after the fire

The school is set in remote grounds around a large historic building that is believed to have escaped damage after the fire

Previous blaze: Lytchett Minster School also burnt down in 2000 after an arson attack

Previous blaze: Lytchett Minster School also burnt down in 2000 after an arson attack

Flames rip through school buildings during the 2000 fire. Lytchett Minster School was built in 1821 and converted into a manor house in 1890

Flames rip through school buildings during the 2000 fire. Lytchett Minster School was built in 1821 and converted into a manor house in 1890

The manor was used as a hospital for
wounded soldiers during the First World War and sold in 1957 to Dorset
County Council, when it became a school.

A statement on the school's website
after the blaze today, said: 'The school has suffered a major fire to
the Creative Arts block and Gainsford Theatre.

'This was caused by a massive lighting strike in the early hours of Thursday morning.

'As a result, the whole block has been destroyed.

'School will regrettably not be open
for the first two days of term, except for staff, and a phased return
may be required after this.

'Examination commitments will not be jeopardised.'