Head of Astley Park School in Chorley speaks out after arson attack

Fire fighters attended the fire at Astley Park School
Fire fighters attended the fire at Astley Park School
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The headmaster of a school which saw an outdoor classroom go up in flames has spoken out about being targeted by vandals.

Kerian Welsh, headmaster of Astley Park School, said the school has been vandalised for the last three years with the destruction getting more “sinister” in the last 18 months.

Mr Welsh now fears that the school, which is an old wooden building, could be next.

He said: “This has not come as a complete surprise to us. When the teenagers, about eight of them, started coming on the premises they were using it for shelter.

“It was innocent for a time then it started to get really sinister about 18 months ago. There was evidence of potential drug taking and they were trying to melt things. It’s cost us an absolute arm and a leg replacing all the low level stuff.

“I think they got drinking and then they lost their senses. Will it be school that is next?”

Fire crews were unable to save the outdoor classroom from being completely gutted on April 16 at the school in Harrington Road.

The plume of smoke rising above neighbouring houses could be seen from all around. One eyewitness even described seeing a “fireball” as the blaze caught hold prompting concerns that a excelerant was used to start the fire.

However John Taylor of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said there was no residual evidence for petrol. He added: “That said, fire can escalate very rapidly and violently and often ‘explosions’ or ‘fireballs’ reported by layperson witnesses are the result of the way fire takes hold of a structure and develops – windows sometimes burst into fragments and so on. There were play toys in the building apparently. Presumably many were made of plastic, which melts and fuels the fire as would petrol once the fire’s taken hold.”

Now well-wishers are donating funds to the for children with special needs to contribute towards covering the cost of some of the damage.

Naomi Moazzeny, whose seven-year-old son Daniel goes to Astley Park School, was devastated when she discovered that the fire had destroyed an outdoor classroom in the grounds.

Naomi, who started the fundraising drive, said: “I was utterly devastated to hear that the school’s outdoor classroom had been burnt down as a result of an arson attack.

“I find this so upsetting and not just because it’s a special educational needs school but because the precious children that attend this school absolutely love to be outside learning.”

Astley Park School could be facing up to £23,000 due in damages as a result of the fire and Naomi hopes the fundraiser will help towards replacing the classroom.

Since April 2014 schools in Chorley and South Ribble have seen 41 accidental fires and 10 deliberate fires, according to LFRS. See justgiving.com/fundraising/Naomi-Moazzeny