Teenager arrested - and bailed- on suspicion of arson following fire at Exning Primary School near Newmarket
- Credit: Archant
A 16-year-old girl has been arrested on suspicion of arson following a fire at Exning Primary School.
Emergency services were called at about 12.50am on Friday – the first day of term at the school – to reports of a blaze there.
The 16-year-old girl was arrested at the weekend and has now been bailed to return to police on September 18 to allow further enquiries to be carried out.
Witnesses to the incident should call police on 101.
Children and staff have been left ‘devastated’ after the suspected arson attack on the first day of term.
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Exning Primary School did not open on Friday due to the fire in the early hours of the morning.
Police have confirmed that the blaze, which spread from a shed to the main school building, is being treated as arson.
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The shed has been completely destroyed and extensive damage has been caused to a year one classroom in the 19th-century building.
Deputy headteacher Jane Segust said: “Obviously at the moment we are all absolutely devastated. The damage to the school has had a massive effect on absolutely everybody: the staff, the children, the community.
“The fire service have been absolutely fantastic along with the police presence here. We have nothing but praise for the services - they acted very, very quickly.”
She said the school was able to inform parents using social media, email and the school website, adding parents of the new students were also contacted via text message.
She added: “The Exning community is amazing. Numerous parents had arrived this [yesterday] morning offering help. Children have been offering their money boxes. We have just had a call from Tesco [in Newmarket] who offered to do lunch for the staff on site. It really has been overwhelming.”
She said it is not yet known when the school, which has 199 students, will reopen, and stressed they need to make sure the building is structurally safe.
“At this stage we are not envisaging teaching the children off site,” she said, adding they are hoping to come up with a solution at the school.
Keith Miller, landlord of the White Swan pub, which is near the school, and neighbour Rob Ellis discovered the fire and attempted to stop it spreading.
They acted on instinct, filling watering cans with water from an outside tap and using sand from a bin intended for bad weather.
Mr Miller said: “I used to be a policeman. Your instinct is just to get stuck in and just do it. I feel really sorry for the ones [children] who were due to be starting today [yesterday].”
He added: “The community are up in arms about it. It’s a village and a lot of adults went to this school when they were kids. It’s horrible.”
Mr Ellis, who has lived next to the school for 20 years, described how alarms alerted him to the blaze.
He said: “We got the flames down quite a lot and then we could see there were flames inside the classroom.”
Seven fire crews were dispatched to the fire after several calls from the public at about 12.50am.