A fire at a Mount Maunganui school which is estimated to have caused more than $10,000 in damage is being treated as suspicious.

It is the latest incident in a spate of vandalism plaguing the area these holidays.

Arataki School principal Shelley Blakey said yesterday's fire began outside a building and was no accident. However, the actions of two young skateboarders helped save a classroom block.

"The fire investigator came yesterday afternoon and said yeah, it was definitely deliberate," Blakey said.

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She said the estimated fire damage was more than $10,000.

Police confirmed they were investigating the cause of two fires at Mount Maunganui schools yesterday. The first was at 3.37pm in a rubbish skip bin at Mount Maunganui Intermediate. Arataki School's happened about 4pm.

At least four fire trucks and four police cars responded to the fire at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak
At least four fire trucks and four police cars responded to the fire at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak

"It could be a lot worse. It's quite minimal considering what it could have been. We could have lost the whole block," Blakey said.

She said because the fire started late in the afternoon, the school was still quite busy with the community using its facilities.

"And two young boys were skateboarding past, saw it, alerted an adult that was there on site and thankfully he smashed one of our classroom doors and got the fire hose and started putting it out straight away."

Firefighters arrived shortly after.

Fire damage at Arataki School. Photo / Supplied
Fire damage at Arataki School. Photo / Supplied

The worst-affected part of the building was a small room used for storing records "so there will be no disruption to our school starting, which is fantastic".

Blakey said the school has had "really tough holidays" with vandalism.

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"And quite brazen stuff like people trying to break in in broad daylight while we have been on site.

"A parent I was speaking to yesterday said that two youths were trying to break into our sports shed and they were armed with a knife and then we've had fences kicked in and vents broken, and our artwork around the school broken.

"So it's been really sad because it's obviously a community facility and it's just sad that people are abusing it."

She did not know how much all the vandalism was going to cost at this stage.

Both the Fire Service and the police responded to the fire at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak
Both the Fire Service and the police responded to the fire at Arataki School. Photo / George Novak

However, Blakey said she was counting her blessings for the actions of the skateboarders and the man who helped.

"Otherwise, it would have been a very different story."

Arataki School was open for everybody to use and Blakey was happy to have people there "but don't abuse it, look after it and treasure it because it's an awesome, awesome facility".

The Fire Service was alerted to a fire at Arataki School at 4.10pm yesterday. Photo / George Novak
The Fire Service was alerted to a fire at Arataki School at 4.10pm yesterday. Photo / George Novak

Blakey has just returned from tours through South Africa and England where she said schools were locked and gated up during the weekend, "and I hope that we don't get like that here".

Tauranga police Detective Senior Sergeant Greg Turner also expressed gratitude to the people who helped while firefighters were responding.

"We're very appreciative of excellent work by members of the public which meant the fire only caused minimal damage to the exterior of a classroom block."

Turner said police were also investigating whether both school fires were linked.

Area prevention manager Inspector Karl Wright-St Clair said, unfortunately, schools can be targeted with burglary and vandalism over the holidays.

"Police work with schools to make sure schools are secure and that valuables such as tablets and computers are locked away and serial numbers are recorded, such as with Operation SNAP.

"Schools have their own security and where possible police also patrol schools over the holiday period."

Fire investigator Stuart Bootten confirmed they were treating the Arataki School fire as suspicious and warned people to act responsibly "and think about other people".

"We don't want you to do these dumb acts because it affects so many people."

Can you help?

Police would like to hear from anyone who was in the area around Mount Maunganui Intermediate and Arataki School at those times yesterday afternoon.

They also urge people to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour in and around schools over the holiday period.

Anyone with information is asked to call Tauranga police on (07) 577 4300 or Crimestoppers anonymously 0800 555 111.

Smoke could be seen coming from the skip bin at Mount Maunganui Intermediate. Photo / George Novak
Smoke could be seen coming from the skip bin at Mount Maunganui Intermediate. Photo / George Novak
Firefighters extinguishing a small fire at Mount Maunganui Intermediate yesterday afternoon. Photo / George Novak
Firefighters extinguishing a small fire at Mount Maunganui Intermediate yesterday afternoon. Photo / George Novak