Fire destroys school

Much of Puckapunyal Primary School was destroyed by fire on Sunday afternoon. The cause is still being investigated. Photos: Richard Gray

By Jackson Russell

THE Puckapunyal community is devastated after much of its primary school was destroyed by fire on Sunday afternoon.

Country Fire Authority crews were dispatched following a call to triple zero about 1.15pm.

Incident controller Jake Kociancic was the first member on scene, followed by a broad-spectrum pumper, and said by the time he had arrived, part of the building was fully engulfed and flames could be seen coming out of the roof.

The response to the fire was immediately escalated, with requests for aerial units and additional CFA and Fire Rescue Victoria units.

Ambulance Victoria, along with a rehabilitation unit, was onsite for firefighter welfare, Victoria Police conducted scene control and the Australian Defence Force and State Emergency Service also assisted.

The fire was declared safe at about 8.30pm on Sunday, night with a crew at the scene overnight and fire investigation crews attending on Monday morning.

Mr Kociancic said a block of about 40 metres by 100 metres was destroyed in the fire.

“Immediately, we tried to prevent the spread to the east into the office space, which we were successful in doing, and there was an adjacent building that we managed to save,” he said.

“It was a multi-agency response and all services worked really effectively together. It was a positive outcome from an emergency services perspective.”

No one was injured in the fire, with the school vacant over the weekend.

The cause of the fire was yet to be determined at time of print, with fire investigators at the scene yesterday.

Much of Puckapunyal Primary School was destroyed by fire on Sunday afternoon. The cause is still being investigated. Photos: Richard Gray

In a statement on social media on Sunday evening, Education Minister James Merlino said arrangements were already underway for the school’s more than 250 students to attend Seymour College for the remainder of the year.

“Supports are being put in place for both staff and students,” he said.

“It will be an extremely difficult time for staff and students and the broader community. But we will rebuild impacted buildings as quickly as we can.”

In a message to families on its Facebook page, Puckapunyal Primary School apologised for any inconvenience the disaster placed on families.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of students is always our top priority, and all students are safe and well,” the post said.

“I understand this may be distressing, and I appreciate your patience with this relocation. Support will be available for all students and staff.

“The Victorian Government has committed to rebuilding the impacted facilities as quickly as possible.

“We will provide more information in due course about repair works once the extent of the damage is known.”

Families with further queries about the school are encouraged to contact the Department of Education and Training regional office on 1300 333 321.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson said council’s thoughts were with the school’s students and staff and the wider Puckapunyal community.

“This is a sad way to end what has already been a very disruptive year for students, staff and the community,” she said.

“We have contacted the school to offer any support we can provide.”

In announcing grants for schools across the electorate, Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said Puckapunyal Primary School had been set to receive $207,125.

“My heart goes out to the teachers and students at Pucka. They, like everyone else, have had a really tough year but that has just been made even tougher,” she said.

“I will do all I can to make sure the school retains the grant it has been allocated and receives the funding it needs to rebuild as quickly as possible.”