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Fire crews battle major blaze after 'arson attack' at former Dudley school

By Dayna Farrington | Dudley | News | Published:

Nearly 30 firefighters tackled a major blaze at a derelict former school in the Black Country which is believed to be an arson attack.

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

Five crews were sent to tackle the fire which started just after 2am on Sunday at the former Sir Gilbert Claughton School in Dudley.

Police, paramedics, gas engineers and council workers have also been at the scene on Blowers Green Road, where part of the building has collapsed but nobody is reported to have been injured.

Around 80 per cent of the roof of the former Victorian school has collapsed to the ground.

A fire investigation is underway – with officers believing the fire was started deliberately. Officers from Dudley Council are on site to erect fencing around the perimeter of the building.

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

West Midlands Fire Service said they expected crews to be at the school throughout Sunday but had scaled down their response by 8am.

Blowers Green Road, which runs between King Street and Duncan Edwards Way, is closed as a result.

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

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A spokesman from West Midlands Fire Service said: "The first call came in at around 2.17am this morning, there was two crews mobilised straight away. The information provided said it was an abandoned building.

"Footage from the 999 Eye – which is a system which can view the caller's mobile phone footage and they stream through to us. Based on that footage, we increased the appliances and sent a third to the scene.

"At around 2.25am the officer in charge of the Dudley appliance, he requested for a further two appliances and a hydraulic platform. We had 27 firefighters in total at the scene.

"The incident involved a severe fire in a former school. Around 50 per cent of the roof of the building was well alight and crews tackled the blaze with hose reel jets. At around 2.50am the fire had spread to 100 per cent of the roof. The appliances were pulled away from the building to a safe distance due to a potential collapse.

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"The building was a two-storey brick built former Victorian school, the building measured 70 metres by 70 metres. Around 80 per cent of the roof space collapsed to the ground in the fire.

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

"Cadent Gas were also in attendance and no gas supply was found, there was also no electrical supply confirmed. Due to the unsafe condition of the building, Dudley Council attended to erect a security fence around the perimeter of the building.

"The fire investigation officer has been in attendance and the fire is believed to have been started deliberately, believed to be arson.

"Three relief crews were sent to the scene at around 8am this morning. Just before 10am, we had two relief crews on site looking for hot spots. They have scaled back the operation to just two appliances and the hydraulic platform. The platform is being used with a thermal imaging camera to check for any hot spots, while the crews were tackling any hot spots on the ground."

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

Most recently know as the Claughton Centre, the building has been derelict for several years and was set to be turned into apartments after being sold at auction for £405,000 last year.

The school was originally called the Dudley Upper Standards School when it opened in 1904 and changed name several times before becoming the Sir Gilbert Claughton School in 1957, the title honouring a late 19th century mayor of Dudley.

It closed following a merger with another school to create Castle High.

Dudley Council then moved into the site and it was used as offices, a youth centre and meeting site but it has not been used by the authority for a number of years.

The fire at the former Claughton Centre in Blowers Green Road, Dudley. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

West Midlands Ambulance Services's Hazardous Area Response Team wrote on Twitter: "HART attended initially providing medical support to our West Midlands Fire Service colleagues.

"All in hand with defensive firefighting due to derelict and unsafe structure so all ambulance service resources stood down from the scene."

Dayna Farrington

By Dayna Farrington
Senior reporter based at Wolverhampton

Reporter for the Express & Star based at Wolverhampton.

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