An investigation into the cause of a fire at a Grade II-listed former school building in Leicester is continuing today. The roof to the former Open Air School in Western Park went up in flames last night with the buildings still burning into the early hours of this morning.
Firefighters remain at the scene today. Emergency services were first alerted to the fire at around 6pm on Thursday night (May 5).
The initial 999 call to the fire service suggested people had been inside at the time, according to Station Commander Anthony Wildgoose. However, nobody was found on the site of the property during searches of the scene.
Leicestershire Police were also called to the incident at the request of the fire service last night and have been at the scene with the owner of the property this morning. In an update on the incident, a spokesperson for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said today: “A fire investigation is being arranged with the police today to confirm the cause which is suspected to be deliberate ignition.”
Part of the roof of the historic building had to be stripped to prevent the fire from engulfing the building. Further work was carried out to remove internal cladding and dampen hotspots at the property after the main seat of the fire was put out by 1.40am today.
Residents told LeicestershireLive on Thursday night that they suspected the fire was started by arsonists. They added that over the site had been frequented by “youths” over the years.
The old school had been Leicester City Council-owned before it closed in 2005 and has since been targeted by vandals and arsonists leaving it in a state of disrepair. But plans to breathe new life into the complex, which consists of the main building and several other structures, were submitted to city council planning officers in 2021.
Leicester firm WPOAS lodged proposals to turn the old school into a cafe and office space which included demolishing the fire damaged parts of the property. LeicestershireLive has attempted to contact the owners about how the latest incident may have affected these plans.