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Former school fire in Bishop Auckland was "started deliberately"
A BLAZE that could have destroyed a derelict building next to the fire-damaged remains of Stan Laurel’s school was started deliberately, the fire service has said.
Crews from Bishop Auckland were called to reports of the roof being alight at the empty Durham County Council building on Kingsway at about 11.20pm yesterday (Saturday December 21).
The building, itself a former school, neighbours the former King James I Grammar School building where Stanley Jefferson, later known as Stan Laurel, was a pupil between 1902 and 1903.
The King James building was extensively damaged by an arson attack in 2007.
Dominic Brown from the County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said smart thinking by the incident commander enabled crews to manage Saturday night’s blaze and put it out before it spread too far.
The aerial ladder unit from Darlington was quickly brought to the scene, which helped to stifle the fire and stopped it from spreading across the whole roof.
Firefighters from Durham and Newton Aycliffe also attended.
Mr Brown said: “It could have become a much larger incident if it weren’t for the quick thinking and good decision making by the commander from Bishop Auckland.
“It is a large building in a prominent position beside a main road through Bishop Auckland, had the blaze really caught hold it would have had a big impact on the economy of the town.”
Mr Brown also said the way it was managed meant there was no need for firefighters to risk their lives by going inside the building to battle the blaze.
Mr Brown said the building has been empty for many years and there is evidence of anti-social behaviour being carried out inside.
He said: “There is no doubt whatsoever that this fire was started deliberately, although it does not look like they meant to actually burn the building down.
“There is certainly no electrical supply or other utilities inside that would start a fire.
“It looks like it was started through mischief and anti-social behaviour.”
Durham Police are now investigating the blaze, which was fully extinguished shortly before 1am today (Sunday December 22). Information can be reported to 101.
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