AN UNKNOWN neighbour who “saved a school” from a potentially devastating fire is being urged to come forward by a grateful headteacher.
Paul Silvester, headteacher at Newman School, said he wanted to thank the person who had alerted the fire service to a blaze at the school on Monday night.
Mr Silvester (pictured) said if the fire had spread it would have had huge consequences.
Three fire crews were called to the Whiston school for children with physical disabilities and complex learning needs at around 10pm.
Mr Silvester said: “A neighbour contacted them after seeing smoke coming out of the roof.”
The headteacher said the building was covered by trees so the neighbour had been “very observant”.
By chance, the school’s caretaker happened to be in the area and heard the distinctive fire alarm going off.
“The caretaker was two or three miles away,” said Mr Silvester. “Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have been so close.
“If he hadn’t gone to the school and opened the gates, the fire service would have had to break down the gates, which would have caused delays.
“If it had been ten to 15 minutes later, it would have been a very different story.”
It is believed the fire started accidentally and was related to work done earlier in the day to re-felt the roof.
Firefighters remained at the scene until 12.30am.
Mr Silvester said the fire had started in a part of the school roof that was around 80 years old and would have caused a “huge amount of damage” if it had got out of control.
“What we have ended up with is a small hole, which we have repaired already, and a little bit of water damage,” he added.
“It’s in a section of the school we use as a meeting room and not for teaching.”
Mr Silvester said there was currently “a lot going on” at the school as it was preparing for its newly-installed swimming pool to open in three weeks and any setbacks would have proved “difficult”.
He added: “Because of the quick response, we have ended up with no impact on the school or young people - we were able to open as normal and the damage is completely repairable.
“We deal with special young people - the consequences of not opening for these families is quite serious so we thank our lucky stars it didn’t spread.”
Mr Silvester said he was “very grateful” to the anonymous neighbour who had raised the alarm and urged them to get in touch with the school.
He said: “We’d like to say a personal thank you on behalf of pupils and staff - you have saved the school.”