Firefighters tackled two severe blazes in the Black Country within hours of each other – one at a former school and the other at a waste processing plant.
Arsonists are being blamed for the blaze at the former St Michael’s High School in Rowley Regis. Four youths were arrested in connection with the fire, which happened just hours before a fire at Oakham Environmental Waste and Recycling Centre in Kingswinford.
Police officers blocked off nearby roads for around six hours after the initial 999 call to the blaze at the former school in Thorne Road by a resident at around 4pm on Saturday.
A hydraulic platform was brought in, allowing firefighters to douse flames from above as the blaze quickly spread.
A high pressure water jet was fired into first floor windows in a bid to get the fire under control.
Watch commander Andy Marples, of Oldbury Fire Station, said the building was dangerous for crews and also contained asbestos.
He said the main obstacle to tackling the fire quickly was the security measures including locked gates and metal boarded doors and windows which stopped them accessing the site.
“The crews have done a fantastic job when faced with difficult circumstances to get to the fire itself,” watch commander Marples said.
“It was too dangerous for firefighters to set foot inside so that’s why we brought in the extra crews and a hydraulic platform.”
Mr Marples said youngsters had been spotted running away from the scene. Firefighters caught one of the teenage boys moments after they arrived at the scene, in Throne Road, on Saturday afternoon.
Four youths arrested by police in connection have been bailed pending further enquires.
The upper floor was quickly engulfed by flames which spread though the two-storey teaching block. Other buildings, including the old gym, were saved from major damage.
Crowds of onlookers gathered at the entrances to the school site at Throne Road to survey the damage.
Residents claimed the old school buildings were regularly targeted by vandals since the school moved to Curral Road in 2011.
One resident, who did not wish to be named through fear of reprisals, claimed youths had been breaking into the building for weeks.
“We think they’ve been in there stealing metal and I was waiting for something like this to happen. The council needs to flatten this place now before someone gets hurt,” said the 26-year-old man.
Just three hours later, firefighters were called to tackle another serious blaze – at Oakham Environmental Waste and Recycling Centre, in Kingswinford, where more than 100 tons of rubbish caught fire.
Firefighters remained at the Oak Lane plant today trying to dampen down smouldering embers in rubbish piled 50ft high in places – two days after the blaze ignited.
Around 30 firefighters from six crews, including Dudley, Brierley Hill and Wolverhampton, battled the blaze which started at 7.20pm on Saturday.
Extra crews were bought in as the fierce blaze took hold of the waste pile at the recycling centre over the following six hours.
Machinery was bought in to turn over the pile to help crews tackle fire hotspots buried deep inside the mound of household waste.
Group commander Mick Birch added: “The cause of the fire is difficult to establish and we have been to this site before.
“As it is no longer an emergency 999 job we will be looking to leave this with the owner to apply water as they turn over the rubbish and they will have the option to call us to come down if the fire gets bigger.”
West Midlands Fire Service confirmed there were no injuries from those working on site.
Last April, around 16,000 sqft of recycling waste caught fire at the plant. There was another blaze in April 2011. No-one at the firm was available to comment.