Fire guts historic Morningside State School in Brisbane’s east
‘A fire has engulfed a primary school in Brisbane’s east, destroying historic buildings and prompting authorities to declare an emergency situation.
The blaze broke out at Morningside State School on Pashen Street around 3:00am.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) said two three-storey buildings were fully engulfed when emergency services arrived.
Fire crews brought the blaze under control, and the fire investigation unit has been called in.
Queensland Police are treating the blaze as suspicious.
QFES Chief Superintendent Lance Duncan said a significant portion of the school had been destroyed.
“We’ve got three buildings that were interconnected and they were reasonably large structures,” he said.
Some of the school’s buildings were recently declared on the state’s heritage register. (ABC News)
He said 52 firefighters and 13 fire engines were needed to get the blaze under control.
“This particular school is an old school and does have asbestos in there, so we’ve taken all precautions in relation to that,” he said.
“We’re wetting down the asbestos and ensuring that it didn’t get airborne in the local area.
“We also brought our scientific officers in to conduct air sampling in the area to ensure the safety of the local residents.
“It did give off a lot of toxic smoke in the initial stages.”
(From left) Ned, Jake and Fletch Walker say books, computers, and tablets have been lost in the fire. (ABC News: Lexy Hamilton-Smith)
Student Jake Walker’s classroom was one of those lost in the fire, and he was sad about missing school.
“I won’t get to see all my friends,” he said.
Local father Aiden Fickar said he was shocked to see parts of the school destroyed.
“I couldn’t believe it [it’s a] really good school, everyone there is excellent — it’s a shame,” he said.
His son, 11-year-old Andre, will get the day off school.
“It was pretty shocking when I woke up and saw the school on fire — I’m sort of happy and I’m sort of not,” Andre said.
Sophie Turner, who also works at the after-school care, said she woke up to the smell of smoke in her house.
“[I’m] quite devastated, it’s a weird feeling,” she said.
“You see on the TV all the time that a school has burnt down, but when it’s your own school … it’s a little bit not real.”
Her daughter Keenan Turner, 9, said she was sad to see her school so badly damaged.
“I’ve seen my classroom get burnt down, I’ve seen the music home get burnt down and the Grade 3 classrooms,” she said.
Buildings at Morningside State School destroyed by a fire in the early hours of October 16, 2018. (ABC News)
Queensland police Inspector Jeff Coote said officers spoke to locals on Tuesday morning.
“The size of the fire has led us to treat it as suspicious,” he said.
Some of the school’s buildings were recently declared on the state’s heritage register.
“It is an old school, it has a lot of heritage associated with it, it has a lot of history,” Inspector Coot said.
“It is a loss when we lose an old school like this with a lot of character in the building.”
Education Department spokesman Jeff Hunt said they planned to relocate students to nearby Balmoral State High School for the rest of the week.
“There are some spare classrooms here at Balmoral State High School and we’ve been working through a program today with the school to ensure that the primary students from Morningside can be appropriately accommodated at this site,” he said.
“We need to give police and emergency services ample opportunity to work through the investigation. Forensic teams have been on site at Morningside today and we’re looking forward to the results of that forensic exercise.
“As you would understand, there’s been extensive damage to Morningside State School … there are six classrooms that have been lost in the fire and a range of other ancillary facilities that we need to rectify and reinstate for the school.”