RESIDENTS were evacuated from their homes as fire-fighters tackled a major blaze at an Ellesmere Port school.

Cheshire Police said the fire in a disused building at St Saviour’s School in Seacombe Drive, Great Sutton, was reported to officers shortly after 5.20pm on Tuesday.

It has now been confirmed as arson and a criminal  investigation has been launched. A boy aged 16 has been arrested in connection with the incident.

Five fire engines and an aerial ladder platform were sent to the scene, which was secured by a police cordon.

A local community centre was opened to provide shelter for those who had been told to leave their homes – said to be around 20 people.

There were no injuries or casualties and residents were allowed to return to their properties just after 10pm with advice to keep doors and windows closed throughout the night.

Inspector Ian Stead from Ellesmere Port Local Policing Unit said yesterday: “This was a deliberate act which has cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds and could have could have had very serious consequences. Thankfully on this occasion nobody was injured as a result of the incident, although the fire did cause major disruption for a number of local residents.

“Officers are following a number of lines of enquiry, including CCTV analysis, forensics and speaking to local residents. In addition a 16-year-old boy is currently assisting us with our enquiries.”

Steve Barnes, Cheshire West Group Manager from Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, added: “Arson is a serious crime. With incidents like these it is only a matter of time before someone sustains serious injury or, worse, is killed. We work very closely with the police and other partner agencies to tackle this on-going issue of deliberate fires and this will continue, but we also need residents to be aware and help us where they can.

“Not only do these fires put the lives of firefighters at risk, they also cause considerable danger to the public because responding to incidents of arson could delay firefighters in getting to a real emergency.”

It is not thought that any of the new buildings at St Saviour’s have been damaged.

Lindsay Pugh, whose nine-year-old daughter Jasmin is a pupil at the school, said: “How utterly dreadful. It is heartbreaking. I have no idea how it happened.

“I am glad it did not spread to the new school. The children work so hard. I just hope their work has not been spoilt.”

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call police on 101.