Initial reports were sketchy, but there was nothing to suggest just how big the fire was (or how big it would get!)
I checked on the Leyland Fire Service web site which stated that there was a fire, reportedly started in the Science block and was being tackled by 20 fire fighters.
About an hour or so later, the first videos started to appear on Facebook and Youtube, one of the best ones to appear was one posted by Lawrence Clift who had managed to get a video from over the fire using a Quadcopter.
Here is a still from the first video to appear:
It looked like it was starting to take hold, but early indications still appeared as though the fire was under control.
Over the next hour or so, local residents started to post more and more about how the fire was spreading, due to a mixture of the roof materials used in the 1950's building (foam based), the lack of a sprinkler system and also a strong wind and how the devastation was growing by the minute and initial reports released by the fire service on site were that 75-80% of the buildings had been destroyed.
By this time darkness had set in, so further updates and photos would have to wait until the following day.
I was expecting to see some extensive damage to the site when I checked the news the following day, but I was still shocked by what I was seeing, the damage to the buildings was immense, the following image is a screen-grab from another video posted by Lawrence to give you an idea of the destruction:
Its been quite a number of years since I have been to the school, but seeing the old place like this really made me feel sad. It also brought back many memories of my time at the school, people, places, good times, bad times.
I think its safe to say that Leyland St Mary's is never going to be the same again, plans are already afoot to try to move back into some of the undamaged buildings and I am sure that over the next few weeks plans to rebuild the school will get underway, but the original buildings will have to be flattened and re-build from the ground up, probably using modern building techniques and styles and although the school will one day re-open for staff and students alike, it's never going to be the St Mary's I spent many happy years attending.
Thanks have to go out to the fire service who put their lives on the line to save as much of the building as they could.
Thoughts also have to go out to the many students who have lost work in the fire, apparently GCSE coursework was stored in the areas which were destroyed, the ramifications of the lost coursework is not yet known, but hopefully the education board will arrange for the affected students to suffer as little disruption to the remainder of their studies as possible.
Finally, the latest news is that 5 local boys, aged between 11 & 15 have been arrested and bailed on suspicion of arson. I am glad that possible suspects have already been investigated, but it saddens me to think that in all probability, due to their age, very little action will probably be taken against them and even then, nothing will be able to un-do the damage that has already been done to the lives of the staff, students and local community by this mindless vandalism.