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30th JUNE 1966
   

ROOM GUTTED IN SCHOOL BLAZE

   
Teaching the fire a lesson
 

STORY:
ASHLEY HOPKINS

PHOTO:
BILL NEAL

THE MAIN BUILDING OF AMMANFORD'S LARGEST SCHOOL, THE AMMAN VALLEY GRAMMAR SCHOOL, WAS DAMAGED BY FIRE AND SMOKE EARLY ON TUESDAY.

     

Firemen wearing breathing apparatus discovered that several separate fires had been stated in different parts of the smoke-filled premises on both the ground and first floors.
Worst hit was one end of the building where the ladies staff room on the first floor was completely gutted.

Police-Superintendent Meurig Thomas, of Ammanford, said that full-scale police inquiries were continuing.
Fire service experts have also conducted a full investigation. All but about 50 of the school's 650 pupils were sent home.

The 50 who stayed were those sitting the GCE `A' and `O` level examinations.
Special arrangements were made for these examination to go on.

The alarm was raised by a dairy man, Mr. Derek Evans, of College Dairy, Derwydd, at about 7.15 a.m. when he called at the school to make his usual delivery of milk.
He heard the sound of breaking glass and saw flames and smoke coming from the ladies staff room at one end of the building.

When local firemen arrived led by Station Officer F. P. Truckle they found smoke pouring out from every window in the main building.

     


DIFFICULTIES

I have moved heaven and earth to make sure that all examinations to which about 50 of my pupils were committed today have been held as scheduled.”

Mr. Evans said that major damage was caused to the ladies' staff-room and to the stage and curtains in the main hall.

FORTUNATE

Smaller fire were started in the men's room and the stores of the zoology department.

Mr. Evans went on: “It is impossible to estimate the total extent of the damage, but considering the possibilities we are fortunate that is was not more severe.”

Although all 600 pupils not sitting external examinations were sent home, teachers remained at the school to check on damage caused to their own and school property.

The school, which opened in 1928 takes in pupils from the entire Amman Valley.

Yesterday (Wednesday) Mr. Evans said that the school had re-opened as planned and was “back to normal.” He said that cleaning staff had worked on until 8 p.m. the previous night.

‘THIS WAS A DELIBERATE AND VICIOUS ACT' – Police chief.

Superintendent Thomas said that no “foreign substances, such as paraffin or petrol, had been used. He added that an almost immediate start had been made on routine questioning of staff and pupils. House-to-house calls were also made by police officers in the vicinity of the school.

AMMANFORD SCHOOL BLAZE: SCHOOLBOYS GIVE THUMB PRINTS

5th July

MORE than 260 pupils of the Amman Valley grammar school had their fingerprints taken by detectives on Tuesday.

This was latest move in the intensive inquiries which have been made by Carmarthenshire police since a blaze damaged the main building of the school on Tuesday last week.

Fire-raisers started five separate fires in different parts of the building.

In charge of the finger printing operation in the school's zoology laboratory on Tuesday was Detective Chief-inspector F. Jones, head of the Carmarthenshire CID who has headed the hunt for the fire-raisers all along.

As boys filed into the laboratory to have their prints taken, he told a reporter: “We have had the full co-operation of parents, and so far have met with only one refusal which might possibly be reversed. We are fingerprinting only boys and the staff.”

He said that five detectives were engaged in the operation, including members of the Regional Crime Squad from Swansea.

PERMISSION

In seeking permission to take the fingerprints, police received the consent of both the headmaster, and the director of education for Carmarthenshire, Mr. Iorwerth Howells.

The consent of parents was sought by the Chief Constable, Mr. J. Ronald Jones, in a printed form taken home by the boys the previous night,

Mr. Jones told the parents: “The police seek your assistance in their inquiries in allowing them to take the finger impressions of your child who is a pupil at the school.

“This is in order that he may be eliminated from the inquiry. After the inquiry is completed you may, if you wish, have the form (containing the prints) returned to you, otherwise it will be destroyed.”

Police Superintendent Meurig Thomas, of Ammanford, said later: “Another 65 boys who were not in school will be seen by us during the next few days. At this stage, it is not proposed to take the thumbprints of girls at the school.” He described the co-operation received from parents, staff and pupils as “wonderful.”

APPEAL

In their inquiries, police have made house-to-house calls in the vicinity of the school and have also questioned staff and pupils. An appeal has also been made for information from anyone who can aid police track down the fire-raisers. The raiders who broke into the building started fires in two staff-rooms, the main hall, the careers room and the zoology department stores. One of the staff rooms was completely gutted.

Spent matches were afterwards found in different parts of the building, but it has been established that neither petrol nor paraffin was used.

I have moved heaven and earth to make sure that all examinations to which about 50 of my pupils were committed today have been held as scheduled.”

Mr. Evans said that major damage was caused to the ladies' staff-room and to the stage and curtains in the main hall.

     

Pic of HeadmasterThe school's headmaster, Mr. O. J. Evans, said he intended to re-open the school yesterday (Wednesday) despite the obvious difficulties.

“The cleaning staff will be working on tonight to get all the classrooms ready,” he said on Tuesday. Mr. Evans added that none of the completed GCE examination papers, or stationary required for the examinations had been damaged.

“The pupils involved in the external examinations have not suffered in any way at all,” he said. “

     

Pic of Fire OfficerAssistant Divisional Officer O. B. Coggins of lanelli-former fire station officer at Ammanford - said a detailed search of the building was made by 15 officers and men wearing breathing apparatus.

The search revealed that small fires had been started in different parts of the building.

“The building at one end where the ladies' staff room is situated was badly damaged, but the other damage was confined mostly to contents.” he said.

     

Pic of Fire OfficerPolice inquiries have established that the separate fires which damaged different parts of the Amman Valley grammar school were started by an intruder or intruders.

At Ammanford police station, Superintendent Meurig Thomas said: “This is a case of arson and there is no doubt that the fires were deliberately started. It was a deliberate and vicious act.

“An entry was forced into the premised and spent matches were found in certain parts of the building.”

     

 

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