Large blaze at Whakatāne school destroys eight classrooms

Large blaze at Whakatāne school destroys eight classrooms
Photo credit: Facebook / Apanui School

A Whakatāne school has lost eight classrooms after the entire block went up in flames on Friday night.

Six fire attendants attended the McAlister Street school at 2am.

Fire and emergency shift manager Craig Dally said the two-storey building was well alight when the first crews arrived.

"We have lost all of A Block (our biggest block by the field), eight classrooms, toilets, temporary staff room and leaky building repairs," Apanui School posted on Facebook on Saturday morning.

"No need for words…"

Dally says the fire is now contained, but investigators are at the scene investigating the cause.

"No idea of whether it is suspicious," he said.

This isn't the first time the school has been a victim of a blaze.

In November 2019, a fire was believed to have been deliberately lit, destroying the school's senior playground.

Whakatāne mayor Judy Turner told Newshub she's absolutely devastated to hear of this incident.

"It's just a terrible thing to happen," she said.

"I used to be a primary school teacher - I know how many resources you buy and develop over the years that are uninsurable. For many teachers, that would have affected a lifetime of work."

"But one thing that's really interesting - the school has 3 values - respect, responsibility and resilience and I think they're going to be calling very strongly on their resilience to get through this."

Apanui School staff and leadership say they are feeling devastated following a fire which razed the nearly-completed administration block renovation and a block of eight classrooms, in the early hours of the morning (6 February).

School Principal Simon Akroyd says he and the entire school community has been shocked and saddened by the fire.

“There a few words for how we are feeling this morning,” he says.

Mr Akroyd says he has utmost praise for our local volunteer Fire and Emergency crew who have put in a significant effort to contain the fire and are continuing to make the area safe. “The cause is yet unknown and I know the FENZ team will work to determine this. Right now though, our focus is on our school community – the students, their whanau, and our staff – and supporting them all as best we can.”

“Apanui School has a strong sense of whanaungatanga and I know the school and wider community will come together as we rebuild stronger.”

Mr Akroyd says he’s grateful to the many people who have reached out to offer their awhi and assistance.

“We know this community is resilient and comes together through these situations. Our thanks go to those who have reached out and offered support and for your ongoing support that will be needed in the coming months.

“We will work with the Ministry of Education and other agencies on where to from here to ensure our tamariki get the school opportunities they deserve.”