Six classrooms gutted in 'mindless' arson attack at Co Antrim school

Six classrooms were left gutted at Newtownabbey Community High School after a serious fire on Saturday afternoon. Picture by Ann McManus
Gareth McKeown

A TOTAL of 38 firefighters were required to tackle a major blaze which gutted six classrooms in a Co Antrim school at the weekend.

Four fire engines, as well as an aerial appliance, were tasked on Saturday to the former home of Newtownabbey Community High School in Whiteabbey.

The school, which closed in August 2015 to merge with Monkstown Community School and create Abbey Community College, was the target of what appears to be an arson attack.

Just after 4pm on Saturday fire crews from Witla Street Station and Glengormely were tasked to fight the fire, which engulfed two floors at the site at Rathcoole Drive.

Firefighters were at the scene for two hours and were able to prevent the spread of flames to neighbouring residential property. The fire service have said that six classrooms were extensively damaged as a result of the fire. Building equipment was also stolen from the site.

Northern Area group commander Max Joyce believes the fire was a deliberate arson attack and urged those responsible to desist.

"These things just don't catch fire so our assumption is it was started deliberately," he said.

"What might start as a bit of fun for people is putting our firefighters in danger. Fires like this can quite quickly get out of control and firefighters could have been injured. The other thing is when appliances are in Newtownabbey they are taken away from Glengormley and Whitla Street, all because of a mindless act. Our message would be for people to stop," Mr Joyce added.

Police are appealing for information in relation to the arson attack at the disused school.

Sergeant Adrian Keon said: "Extensive damage was caused to some of the mobiles and some building equipment was stolen by the perpetrators. I would appeal that anyone with information contact Newtownabbey station."

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