FIREFIGHTERS will remain at Magdalen College School overnight and into Thursday to deal with any flare-ups that might happen after last night's fire, the fire service said.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager Dave Bray said one engine and a hydraulic platform would stay at the school tonight, as investigations continued into the cause of the fire.

At its height, more than 60 firefighters fought the blaze last night to stop it spreading from offices, the school gym and sports hall.

Fire crews from Rewley Road and Slade Park fire station were called to the independent school in Cowley Place off The Plain at 7.15pm.

At the height of the blaze, 12 fire engines and two aerial platforms were being used to stop the blaze from spreading to the rest of the school.

GCSE and A-Level exams will go ahead as normal today but Cowley Place is likely to remain closed at least for the morning as firefighters are still at the scene.

Oxford Mail:

The scene at the school on Wednesday morning 

Master of Magdalen College School Tim Hands said: "There is substantial damage to the drama office and sports and maintenance offices. Otherwise, damage is remarkably limited."

He added: "Some small rearrangements to the arts festival may be necessary and will be notified separately."

Andy Watts, head of PE, told the Oxford Mail today: “All the pupils had left the school by the time the fire started.

“Once the fire alarm went off our head of security called the fire service and firefighters were arriving as staff and cleaners left the school.

“There were still about 30 people here when the fire started, cleaning staff and teachers writing reports, but as they left the fire crews started to arrive.

“The fire started in one of the offices at the back of the school and carried through to the gym and the sports hall roof.

“The quick response from the firefighters stopped the fire spreading to other school buildings – the dining room and art and DT block could have been next.

“Senior management at the school will be looking at the cause of the fire and liaising with the fire service.”

The scene at Magdalen College School this morning after last night's fire

The Incident Commander was Chief Fire Officer Dave Etheridge.

He said: “The initial speed and weight of the attack from the attending crews helped to reduce the spread of the fire to other areas of the school.

“This allowed us to bring the fire under control without any injuries to pupils and staff of the school as well as our own crews.

Thames Valley Police assisted in effective cordon control of the scene in what is a built-up area.

“South Central Ambulance were also there to help had there been any casualties.

“I would like to praise all three emergency services for the efficient way this incident was dealt with.”

Tim Hands, master of Magdalen College School, vows to continue as normal 

Fire risk manager for Oxford Jason Crapper said the blaze started on an external wall of a room with a window, before “going up into the eaves of a pitched roof and then spreading”.

He added that the cause of the fire was not yet known.

Mr Crapper said: “We will be working with police on a fire investigation today.

“We have not ruled arson out and until such time that has been ruled out it is still a potential crime scene.

“We had a lot of firefighters and appliances there very quickly and this could have been much worse for MCS.

“I am very pleased that the firefighters involved did a cracking job.”

Magdalen College School Usher Toby Beaumont has issued a statement on the school website, saying: “Public exams, as previously announced, will take place as scheduled throughout the day.

“The Upper Fourth Geography controlled assessment will go ahead as planned.

“We will update the website in the course of the morning.

“The school is extremely grateful to the fire service for its most prompt and professional action.”

Oxford Mail:

First year student at neighbouring St Hilda's College, David Parton, said: "It spread from the gym facility to the rock climbing facility on the other side of the building.

"When it started the flames were very strong and there was a lot of black smoke that spread very quickly.

"The roof looked quite severely damaged, quite a bit of guttering has fallen off, as well as some tiles. There are holes in the roof and broken windows.

"There was smoke seeping through from the fire inside, it looks like there will be a lot of internal damage."

Thames Valley Police spokeswoman Lucy Billen said: "Officers are working with firefighters to determine the cause.

"Arson has not been ruled out - there is no obvious cause."


Oxford Mail:

Oxford Mail:

  • Two photos of tennis players watching the fire above sent in by Bill Barraclough (Twitter: @BillBarraclough)

Oxford Mail:

  • Credit: David Parton

City of Oxford College student Yasmin M told the Oxford Mail that smoke was blowing over South Park, where she was sitting with friends.

The 21-year-old said: “There was a lot of smoke drifting over South Park and we saw fire engines going towards black smoke in the direction of Cowley Road.

“We also saw an ambulance.”

Oxford Mail:

One staff member at the Cape of Good Hope on The Plain, said they had first noticed the fire at about 7.35pm.

She added: "We've seen fire engines go past. They came from either side of ther school and went into different entrances.

"It looks like quite a big deal. There's a police car outside too."

Oxford Mail:

The sports hall was built in 2001 at a cost of £2m and measures 35m by 22m.

It is primarily for the school’s use but is also used by residents and sports clubs during the school holidays.