Fire fighters battled flames at Willesden primary school as pupils and parents looked on
PUBLISHED: 19:45 22 September 2015 | UPDATED: 21:12 22 September 2015
Fire fighters battled to contain a fire which tore through the roof of a primary School in Willesden this afternoon which saw pupils as young as two evacuated while parents and teachers rushed to ensure their safety.
540 nursery and primary pupils aged from two to 11 years old were evacuated with 65 staff into the playground of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary school in Goodson Road as flames began to tear through the roof shortly after 2:30pm.
Firefighters arrived on the scene just after 3 pm as parents who had seen flames and thick smoke billowing from the roof were seen “crying” “screaming” and “climbing railings” in their efforts to retrieve their children amidst claims that a gas canister on the roof could explode.
Eight fire engines, 58 fire fighters and a helicopter are attending the fire and there have been no reports of any injuries.
One mother, Angela, whose four-year-old daughter Paige was rushed from the school by her teachers said: “I came out of my door and smelt burning, there were mothers hysterical, climbing the railings and crying. I was ready to jump for my child.
“The whole street was full of hundreds of parents screaming because there was a red gas canister on the roof and we could see the flames getting nearer to it with our kids in the playground-it could have exploded. My only aim was to get my child out of the playground as soon as possible.
“Then the roof collapsed and the tower was gone. It was a nightmare.”
Onlookers claimed the blaze caused an historic tower to collapse into the building’s upper floors.
Lukas Unika, 9, who was in a class in the building’s top floor said: “I saw smoke and smelled the fire and then the fire alarm went off and we had to run down stairs because the fire was getting close to the classroom. We saw the red gas can and we thought it would explode.”
One woman, who asked not to be named, was collecting her nephew and niece from the school said: “There were kids everywhere traumatized. It’s not an everyday occurrence to see your school go up in flames.
One girl aged five and a pupil at St Joseph’s said: “I was scared and I wanted my mummy. I was crying because there was a fire.”
Police have confirmed they sent officers to the scene at the request of fire services but have not yet been asked to begin enquiries into the causes of the fire.
Mother Loretta Unikaite, 46, who arrived at the school to collect her son Lukas, watched the flames ravage the school’s roof for over two and a half hours.
She said: “It’s so sad. The kids and the parents are all crying and shocked- it’s been so scary.I can’t believe it.They can’t stop the fire-it’s very bad.”
Lukas, 9, watching the rain as fire fighters battled to extinguish flames in the charred roof of his school said: “I didn’t think the entire roof would burn off. Now I don’t know if I’ll have school tomorrow- because it is burned.”
A spokesman from the London Fire Service said the fire was likely to be a “protracted incident”.
For more updates and images of the St Joseph’s fire, follow @bktimes and @Hannah_Mcgrath on Twitter.