Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Blaze destroys Lakes High classroom

A suspicious fire has destroyed a classroom at Rotorua Lakes  High School and other buildings, including the school's marae, were close to going up in flames.

The fire is being treated as suspicious because the same classroom was set alight a week ago. The Rotorua Fire Service was called to the blaze about 8.30 last night by a resident living near the school.<inline type="photogallery" id="12024" align="outside" embed="no" />

Senior station officer Richard Anastasi said by the time firefighters arrived, the stand alone classroom was well alight.

He said there was nothing they could do to save the classroom so they concentrated their efforts on trying to keep the fire away from the adjacent classrooms and the school's marae, which were about 3m away. Two fire trucks attended with eight firefighters and it took about 15 minutes to get the blaze under control.

He said it was too early to determine if an accelerant was used. "It's more than likely set deliberately but we will be investigating that thoroughly with the police."

He said the Fire Service was called to the school about 10pm a week ago after the same classroom was set alight. On that occasion, firefighters were able to get to the fire before too much damage was done.

He said the ramp and door to the classroom was burnt as well as some cabling.

"Unfortunately the building wasn't alarmed because last week's fire burnt the cabling and it hadn't been replaced yet."

Mr Anastasi said the classroom was near the fields and Elliott Cres, which was the back entrance to the school.

"One of the problems with the school is that it is open to everyone. It's difficult to keep an eye on the whole school."

The school's caretaker was on site at the time of the fire and was one of the many residents who called 111.

"With the school holidays at the moment, we tend to get an increase of incidents around schools. A lot of them are putting security fences around the perimeters now."

Senior Sergeant Malcolm Collins of the Rotorua police told The Daily Post the area was cordoned off last night and members of the Rotorua CIB and a fire safety officer were to conduct a scene examination early this morning.

Lakes High School's science block was the target of a suspicious fire in July 2010 which left extensive damage to five classrooms.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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