Residents in a close-knit Sussex town have expressed their shock and sadness over the fire that engulfed a secondary school this morning (Sunday, August 21).
More than 70 firefighters have been tackling the blaze at Selsey Academy, near Chichester, since it started at around 8am.
Neighbouring firefighters from Hampshire were also drafted in to help with the major operation.
Jeff Farrow, 67, and Elaine Farrow, 69, who live in Vincent Road, Selsey, said they were at the school watching a performance only last week.
Jeff said: “The firemen have done so well to deal with this blaze. At one stage it was absolutely huge.
“This is all very sad for the community because the damage could be huge.
“We were in the school on Thursday last week watching a performance in there and now to see it like this is so sad.
“There were reports of explosions but we didn’t hear them.
“We saw smoke and we instantly thought it was coming from the end of the road because there was so much of it.
“We don’t live too far from it but the smell of smoke was potent early on.”
Teresa Pinkey, 50, and her business partner Kerry Livingston, 51, both from West Street, have a furniture shop, called Reclaimed and Vintage, round the back of the library.
Their business has suffered smoke damage after only being open a few weeks.
Teresa said: “My husband went with a policeman to examine the damage to our shop.
“The shop has experienced smoke damage, the walls are black and a few of our items are damaged too.
“We have only been open for six weeks so this is devastating but we will do what we can to recover.
“We will have to go into the shop this afternoon and have a look properly and see what we can do to repair the shop. We will stay positive because it could have been worse.
“This is a very tight-knit community so what you will probably see is loads of fundraising events in the community looking to raise money to rebuild the damage that has been created.”
Kylee Scott, 44, is a youth engagement officer at The Bridge, located round the back of the school’s library.
Kylee said: “The fire department think that it should be okay but there may be some water damage so hopefully the windows and doors are shut but there may be damage to the roof.
“We are a support service to the youth in the area and we are hoping there is not too much damage.
“This is going to massively affect year 10 pupils at the school because they are in the middle of doing their GCSEs.
“We just hope their work is saved to computers and they have backed it up.
“There are about 500 students that attend this school and it is one of the smallest schools in West Sussex.”
Andrea Harris, 57, of Littlefield Close, said: “We live about 600 yards away and we were down here at 8am before the emergency services got here.
“There was a loud explosion that made everyone stop and take notice.
“It is very sad. My husband and I attended this school, as well as our children, so it has a lot of meaning to us.”
Video by Paul Maley.
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