UPDATE, 4pm: POLICE incident commander, Sergeant Barry Gray has praised St Joseph’s Primary School staff for the manner in quick they evacuated the school.
“They did exactly what they’re trained to do,” he said.
“I am very happy with the way they managed it.”
About 100 children were safely evacuated when fire took hold of part of St Joseph’s Primary School at Kerang.
Firefighters contained the fire to a locker room containing students’ school bags and the adjacent school canteen and kitchen.
Students and staff crossed Nolan Street to the safety of a paved area adjacent to St Patrick’s Catholic Church after the alarm was raised at 10.10am.
Firefighters worked hard initially to prevent flames spreading into classrooms.
Incident fire commander, Lieutenant Peter Boal said that one of the priorities was stopping flames spreading from the verandah into the school toilets.
“Once we were able to contain it and stopping it getting into the toilets, we were able to use breathing apparatus and get into the room where the fire was,” he said.
“We were notified on our arrival that everyone was evacuated, so we knew there was no-one inside and an electrician came and quickly disconnected the power.”
Firefighters also prevented the fire spreading to the adjacent school hall, which was the original school building after it was established in 1912.
The fire took about two minutes to contain and the scene was declared safe an hour later.
Three Kerang fire units, a pumper and two tankers, with 10 firefighters extinguished the blaze and a pumper crew from Barham provided additional breathing apparatus resources and provided a thermal imaging camera to identify remaining heat sources.
Country Fire Authority and police personnel are investigating the cause.
EARLIER: ABOUT 100 students were safely evacuated as fire took hold of a section of St Joseph's Primary School in Kerang.
The alarm was raised around 10.10am on Tuesday.
Firefighters took about an hour to contain the fire at the southern end of the Nolan Street fire. It badly damaged the school canteen and storage areas for sports equipment and students' school bags.
The area is adjacent to the historic school hall, which served as the first Catholic school after it was established in 1912.
Students were evacuated to an area across the road adjacent to the church.
A huge pall of black smoke was billowing from the building when the first of three Kerang fire crews arrived on scene.
A Barham fire crew provided additional breathing apparatus resources and specialist equipment was sent from Cohuna to assess internal structural damage.
Parents were contacted and a steady stream of adults arrived to take children home.
Nolan Street and Fitzroy Street on each side of the school were closed to traffic.
Police are investigating the cause of the fire, which Kerang Fire Brigade Lieutenant Brian Murphy said originated in the storeroom.
Swan Hill Crime Investigation Unit detectives have urged that anyone with information about the fire contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
- with The Gannawarra Times