Fire rips through Broome Primary School with firefighters, police at the scene
A blaze gutting Broome Primary School has quickly engulfed several classrooms, with roads closing as police flag concerns about asbestos in the school. People had gathered to watch the inferno, including teachers and parents who were brought to tears by the sight.Dozens of firefighters attended, including a specialist crew from Broome Airport.Some had to use bolt cutters to get into the property.A thick plume of black smoke could be seen from across the coastal town.Broome man Roly Hutcheson was watching and said the fire was enormous."It's just gone bang and now it's right through, it's terrible," he said.
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A prison escapee has been charged over a blaze which caused millions of dollars in damage to the historic Broome Primary School in WA's Kimberley, with police alleging she set fire to the school just hours after starting another one in a jail cell.
Much of the school is feared to have been destroyed after it went up in flames about 4.00 pm yesterday afternoon.
Classrooms were quickly engulfed in the flames and fireballs could be seen exploding several metres around the buildings, some of which date back to 1901.
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Police closed roads in the area and ordered members of the public to move back amid concerns about asbestos in the school.
People gathered to watch the inferno, including teachers and parents who were brought to tears by the sight.
Police allege 22-year-old Maude Dixon set fire to the school after escaping from Broome Regional Prison just two hours earlier when she lit a blaze inside a cell.
"It will be alleged the woman was responsible for both fires, and that the fires were lit to aid her escape," a WA Police spokesman said.
The prison cell fire damaged furniture and other items, but police said the damage bill from the school blaze was much greater.
"An initial estimate suggests the fire caused $3–5 million worth of damage, however, the extent of the damage is still being assessed and the initial estimate may be subject to change," the police spokesman said.
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The woman was found by police at a local caravan park shortly after 8.00 pm yesterday and arrested without incident.
She has been charged with escaping from custody and two counts of criminal damage by fire — one relating to the school and another to the prison — and is due to appear in court later today.
'It's just gone bang': Locals watch school burn
Dozens of firefighters attended the blaze, including a specialist crew from Broome Airport, and some had to use bolt cutters to get into the school, which was closed due to school holidays.
A thick plume of black smoke could be seen from across town, and the nearby Broome Hospital was partially evacuated due to risks associated with the smoke.
Broome Primary School teacher Mary-Jane Crutchley was among those watching and said the fire was "devastating".
"I smelled it from home and then I got texts," she said.
"There's four classrooms, some offices and the staff room [burning]. There are billows of black smoke and good times going up in the air."
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A letter allegedly written by one of the escapees recently came to light . KPIX 5 exclusively obtained it from a source. They set up a secret workshop on the top of their cells , where they built and hid what they needed to escape. They eventually made it out through the ventilator that led them to the prison
Local resident Roly Hutcheson said the fire was enormous.
"It's just gone bang and now it's right though, it's terrible," he said.
"It's the worst fire I've ever seen in a structure. It keeps reigniting, it started in one room and got into the roofs.
"I think any school means something to people who live in a place like Broome."
School gutted weeks before students due back
Another local man, Sam, said it looked as if almost the entire school was affected.
"I was going to the pub to get a beer and saw the smoke, I thought I had better come over and have a look," he said.
"We've nearly watched the whole thing burn since we've been here, it's gutted the joint, you could hear the ceilings and all of that falling out of it before."
Ambulances were sent to the school but there were no reported injuries.
A number of students and other children also witnessed the blaze.
The school's 400 students were due to return on February 1.
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