Devastation as lightning strikes three times

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By Western Daily Press | Friday, December 28, 2012, 09:00

Lightning may have struck three times as a trio of devastating fires broke out in Dorset.

More than 120 firefighters from across the region helped colleagues in Dorset yesterday deal with the blazes, which killed pedigree lambs, wrecked a school and damaged a hotel.

A lightning strike shortly before 7am is seen as a possible cause of the blaze at Lytchett Minster upper school, a comprehensive near Poole. The building opened three years ago, replacing another destroyed by arson 12 years ago.

Christchurch station commander David Arundel said: "This is probably the largest school fire of its kind we've had to deal with. It is devastating. The roof and first floor are completely gutted and the fire has spread to parts of the ground floor. The cause is under investigation, but there was a terrific crack of thunder around 6.30am."

Fifty five firefighters fought the blaze, with extra water carriers supplied by Devon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Hampshire fire and rescue services.

On arrival, firefighters forced their way into the building but it quickly became evident that the seat of the fire was in the roof and that the blaze needed to be tackled with the aid of a so-called aerial platform, also supplied by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue. The school building worst hit was the arts and theatre block.

Station commander Arundel added: "Many of the students and teachers have been here and seen the devastation and simply fallen to their knees to see their work and classrooms going up in flames."

Earlier, at around 4.30am, the service was alerted to a blaze in a Dutch barn at Thornhill Farm, Stalbridge, where dozens of pedigree Charollais ewes and lambs and tons of hay and straw were being kept. Firefighters shepherded sheep and some lambs to safety but despite their efforts about 20 of the lambs, owned by breeder and show judge Ash Selway, died in the fire or had to be put down by a veterinary surgeon.

Mr Selway's wife, Maureen, described the breed as 'the love of her husband's life'.

She said: "There were around 80-90 ewes and lambs in the barn. The firefighters were there before we knew anything about it. They got the ewes out and they were carrying lambs out under their arms. They did everything they could but the vet has had to put some lambs down that were overcome."

The blaze also caused a power failure to an adjoining property. The barn was completely destroyed.

The third blaze was in the derelict Cliff House hotel in Bournemouth.

Emergency services were alerted at 6.45am. Twenty five firefighters and an aerial ladder platform were involved in tackling the blaze in the second floor and roof.

Lightning strikes have not been ruled out in all three fires.



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