Residents evacuated as Cork school is badly damaged in fire

‘It is devastating. This is a good school with a long standing record,’ a local councillor says

Eyewitness footage captures the Patrician Academy in Fair Street, Mallow in flames. Video: Patrick Hogan

 

A secondary school for boys, which opened more than 130 years ago, has been left badly damaged after a blaze erupted onsite in Co Cork.

Emergency services spent several hours overnight battling a fire at the Patrician Academy in Fair Street, Mallow that broke out shortly after 3.30am.

Five units of cork city and county fire services attended at the scene with fire crews travelling from the city, Charleville, Kanturk and Mallow stations in a bid to get the fire under control.

The main damage was to an extension to the school, which was built 20 years ago.

The extension consisted of three science laboratories with a tiered demonstration room, two drawing rooms, a building construction room, a geography laboratory with a weather satellite link and four classrooms.

Residents living close to the fire were evacuated from their homes.

Fair Street remained closed for much on Wednesday morning but has subsequently reopened.

The school was unoccupied and nobody was injured in the blaze.

Gardaí have confirmed that they are not treating the incident as being suspicious and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Technical examinations of the scene are due to be carried out on Wednesday.

Local resident Michael Sullivan who lives about 30 yards from the school said it was a “horrifying scene.”

“I saw two gardai getting people up and out. Those people were in danger as they were close to the school. It was desperate to watch such a school go up in flames. It was frightening.”

There was a degree of concern for residents in the area as ashes were falling and slates on the roof of the school were falling off.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Melissa Mullane said the school was very much part of the fabric of the town.

“It is devastating. This is a good school with a long standing record. It started at about half three and the fire spread and people had to be evacuated. Thankfully, it is not being treated as suspicious and they were able to get residents out before it spread. The extension was built in about 1996-1997 and its sad that that was destroyed.”

Former county mayor John Paul O’Shea sad it was a very sad day for the people of Mallow.

“The school principal Ms Catherine Fitzpatrick and her staff have worked extremely hard to bring the school to the educational level it is presently at and I am sure the people of Mallow and surrounds will support the reconstruction and opening of the school in the immediate future. It has a long standing educational link with the town,” he said.

The older section of the school was not damaged in the blaze.

It is not known at this juncture if the school will partially reopen at the site in September or whether they will have to find temporary accommodation.

The school has an enviable reputation for its academic excellence.

A new sports hall was opened by Bishop William Crean in 2012 while refurbishments to the canteen, woodwork room and art room were completed in 2009.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Moynihan said school numbers at the Patrician Academy are rapidly expanding.

“I don’t know what the numbers are but the numbers are bulging there. It has been expanding rapidly as Mallow expands. It is a fantastic school.”