Community rallies to support Long Bay College after accidental fire ravaged classrooms

The fire that razed Long Bay College's technology block was accidental, say inspectors.

The school's technology block is in ruins after the fire raced through the large building just after 2.30am today.

The fire claimed about 14 classrooms housing fashion rooms, a commercial kitchen, engineering workshops and design rooms containing lots of expensive equipment.

After searching through the charred remains of the building this morning, investigators found "nothing suspicious" said Fire Service assistant area commander John Booth.

Initial reports that asbestos had been found in the fire-ravaged building are not confirmed, said Booth.

The fire started in the early hours of the morning.  Photo / Roger Curl
The fire started in the early hours of the morning. Photo / Roger Curl

"We put a precaution out to crew to be careful if you come across [asbestos]. It wouldn't have made a difference to our firefighting anyway as the men were wearing breathing apparatus and there was a lot of water which keeps dust settled."

The fire is the latest tragedy to strike the college after pupils and staff began the year on a heartbreaking note with the loss of three lives in the school community.

International student Peyo Crus, former student Rachael de Jong and former long-time visual arts teacher Kim Gray have died since the start of the year.

Crus was killed in a car crash, De Jong was swept to her death when floodgates opened on the Waikato River on Waitangi Day, and Gray succumbed to breast cancer.

Carissa Avison, 21, who disappeared on January 26 and whose body was found in Woodhill Forest last week, also attended the school for a short time.

The Ministry of Education said it was working with the college to support them following the fire and other incidents.

Support from the traumatic incident team had been offered to the school, which the college's principal had told the Ministry they did not need, said spokeswoman Katrina Casey.

"We will continue to work with the school to identify a solution to provide technology education, which may include using another part of the school, or bringing in temporary classrooms," she said.

The Ministry understood Vanguard School has offered the school some space to use.

"We have engaged an emergency building contractor to ensure the building is isolated and made safe, and a loss adjuster from our insurance company will inspect the site."

The Ministry would pay for the school's repair as it covered damage repairs to state school buildings by fire, flood or other events.

"We are backed by private sector insurance if there is a major event that our funding cannot cover," Casey said.

In the meantime, locals are rallying to help the school.

Long Bay Baptist Church said a community gathering at 7pm would pray for the neighbourhood.

In a Facebook post, the church said it would be focusing on the college after the devastating fire and tragic deaths this past month.

A local mechanic workshop has set up a fundraising account to help replace expensive equipment lost in the blaze.

Bellars Motor Works said the fire was likely to affect hundreds of students for many months and even years to come until all the buildings and equipment was replaced.

It encouraged other businesses to contribute to the school to make a difference to how the school coped.

A bank account had been set up under "Long Bay College Fire Fund": 06-0185-0204885-01.

- NZ Herald

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