Workers blamed for blaze at Catherine Junior School in Leicester
A fire that destroyed a school gym and damaged classrooms was started accidentally by workmen, it has been confirmed.
Pupils at Catherine Junior School have been told to stay at home for the rest of the week after the fire, which was caused by a stray spark that set the roof alight and burned for several hours.
The school, in Brandon Street, Belgrave, was evacuated shortly after 2pm on Tuesday.
More than 60 firefighters helped put out the flames. They had to cut away concrete to get to the smouldering bitumen.
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Rick Moughton, incident commander, said: "We have established that the fire at Catherine Junior School was started accidentally.
"Workmen were repairing the roof of the gymnasium using a heat gun to melt bitumen to seal the roof.
"A stray spark ignited material in the roof space and the roof subsequently caught fire.
"The gymnasium has been completely destroyed by the fire and the surrounding classrooms have also sustained fire and smoke damage.
"The remainder of the school was damaged by smoke from the fire."
Firefighters were back at the school yesterday to inspect the damage, as were Leicester City Council officers.
Watching from outside the school gates were Kajal Patel and her son, Krish, who is a pupil at the school.
She said: "You can see now that there's a lot of damage.
"I found out about the fire when someone phoned me.
"I came down straight away and Krish was with the others at the infant school over the road.
"It was a scary day and I know the teachers were very worried after the school was evacuated."
Seven-year-old son, Krish, like the rest of the 400 children at the school, has been given the rest of the week off.
Kajal said: "I've had to take time off college and Krish is enjoying having the time off.
"We know the school is closed for the rest of the week but we don't know what's happening next week."
Kimbra Myles, whose daughter Macie, eight, attends the school, said: "I'm a working mum so it's a bit of a nightmare.
"I've had to take one day off but Macie goes to Belgrave Playhouse in Harrison Road before and after school, and they've offered to stay open all day for no extra charge."
A spokesman for Leicester City Council said: "The main school building has been damaged by fire and other parts have suffered from smoke damage.
"We will assess the full extent of the damage to the building when the initial clearance of debris from the site is complete.
"When we have completed that assessment we will then be able to develop our plans for the school buildings and assess the implications for the short and longer term operations of the school."