Blaze tears through the administration building of Warwick East State School

Hand bells used to alert students as blaze cuts alarm

CHILDREN and staff watched on in horror as Warwick East State School was engulfed in flames during lunch break today.

Principal Marina Clarke was in the admin building when the fire started and proceeded immediately with evacuation procedures.

Ms Clarke, staff and students were evacuated and children were visibly distraught by the devastation.

Fortunately no one was injured.

"I cannot believe how quickly the trees in front of the building went up," Ms Clarke said.

The school principal said she believed the fire started in an empty classroom at lunch and spread to the administration building.

"Thank god it was lunchtime."

Staff were forced to use hand bells to alert students to the evacuation, as the fire had spread to the area that contained the school-wide fire alarm.

Ms Clarke said the evacuation went smoothly.

"I am devastated by this, just devastated," she said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Police officers in the area worked to move onlookers away from the billowing smoke as the building contained asbestos.

Acting Inspector Jamie Deacon said police did not know the cause of the blaze.

"We believe it is not suspicious but we will be guided by what the firies think," he said.

A Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said crews were called to the scene, only a block from the fire station, at 1.20pm.

"There was one building well alight when crews arrived and staff and students had been evacuated," she said.

The fire was contained at 2.30pm while parents rushed to retrieve their children from the oval.

Warwick Fire Station Officer Darren Welsh said they first spotted the blaze from the station which was down the road from the school.

"We have responded to a structure fire with a crew of 16 and six fire appliances," Mr Welsh said.

"The roof on the Canning St end of the building will collapse."

Warwick East State School was the first school established in Queensland, with a history that dates back to 1850.

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