(By AMY CHILDS, PHILLIPA YALDEN AND JOSH FAGAN, stuff.co.nz)
A post on social media points to an alleged plan to burn down Rotorua Girls’ High. “Tonight is the night to burn down girls’ high”, a post on Facebook by a Rotorua teen said.
The post went up around the same time a fire broke out in the stand-alone mathematics block at the school on Old Taupo Rd at 1.20am Wednesday.
The conversation on Facebook included this, with the poster saying “only two classroom caught” when asked if she’d burned the school down.
Police would not go into detail when asked about the post, but said they were examining several social media posts as part of their investigation.
Meanwhile, principal Ally Gibbons said the area had been cordoned off so she had not yet been able to get close enough to see the extent of the damage.
“We have lost a couple of the mathematics classrooms, there is alot of damage, we are not sure to what extent yet.
“We are just devastated for the teachers and students who have lost all of their teaching resources. It’s really sad.”
Gibbons said school would continue as normal today and maths classes would be relocated.
“The maths faculty is a stand-alone building, it has about six classrooms.”
The police and a fire safety investigator are now at the scene.
Rotorua police Sergeant Andrew Lynch said there was no indication on the cause of the blaze yet.
“We are waiting for fire safety to to have a look and based on what they tell us we will take it from there.”
Lynch said there was no reports of any suspicious activity around the school, but police were keeping an open mind. Arson was not being ruled out.
When the first fire crews from Rotorua arrived at the school the block of classrooms were “well involved”.
The flames were close to reaching an adjacent block of three other classrooms, a Fire Service spokeswoman said.
Four fire crews from Rotorua, two crews from Ngongotaha and volunteer brigade from Mamaku attended the fire and managed to contain most of the blaze to two classrooms, said Northern Fire Communications shift manager Paul Radden.
Two extra off duty crew were also paged to come and assist, along with operational support staff who help to close roads and support firefighters, said Radden.
Radden said volunteer crews had now left the scene, but one Rotorua crew remained.
“They are removing roof iron to gain access to other areas and ensure the fire is out, and dampen down any hot spots,” said Radden.