A “CLEAR act of arson” at a Gwent school this weekend could have caused millions of pounds worth of damage, a fire officer has said.
Police and fire officers are investigating after a blind was set alight in a ground floor office at Caldicot School on Saturday morning.
Emergency services were called at around 8.20am after the alarm was raised by staff at Caldicot Leisure Centre.
The scene was cordoned off and four fire engines and a water bowser attended the incident with 16 fire fighters from Caldicot and Chepstow.
Station manager Matt Jones, who was the commander for the incident, said the staff had seen smoke coming up from the school as they arrived for work.
Someone had broken a window and papers and curtains on the ground had been set on fire, he explained.
Mr Jones said the swift action of firefighters in putting the fire out within 20 minutes stopped it from becoming a larger incident.
“This was a clear act of arson and the potential to have caused millions of pounds worth of damage was extremely close,” Mr Jones said.
“It’s rather disappointing, for the want of a better word, that an individual could do this.”
Gwent control room inspector Chris Haire said the damage was very minor, but that the fire was deliberately started.
No arrests had been made as the Argus went to press.
Peter Nurcombe, chairman of governors, said the school does have CCTV and is due to get more cameras with the aid of a grant to prevent arson.
“The leisure centre staff broke the door down and found a room full of smoke, but no flames,” said Mr Nurcombe, who went to the school on Saturday morning to see the damage.
“It was an odd one because it was first thing in the morning. It is very concerning.
“It was obviously arson, but we were fortunate that nothing worse happened.
“There’s a connection between the school and the leisure centre and that alerts them if there is anything happening in the school,” he explained. “Hopefully the people responsible will be caught.”
A Monmouthshire council spokesman thanked the emergency services and leisure centre staff for their prompt action in dealing with the fire.
“Thanks to them, the fire caused only minor damage and the school will be fully open as normal on Monday,” he said.
“We understand that arson is suspected and we hope those behind it are caught as soon as possible. Any attempt to disrupt the education of our young people is to be deplored.”
If you can help with the investigation call Gwent Police on 101, quoting log number 106, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
School staff will assess the damage today but it is thought to be minor.