Cost of damage in the millions

Youth detained after fire in Hennef

Die Feuerwehr im Einsatz an der Gesamtschule Hennef-West.

The fire brigade in action at the Hennef-West comprehensive school.

Hennef. A 15-year-old is alleged to have set fire to the comprehensive school in Hennef. The youth, who lived in a young person’s home, is said to have anonymously reported the fire to police.

A day after the blaze at the Hennef-West comprehensive school, police report that there is growing evidence that a 15-year-old arrested near the scene started the fire. “We are assuming arson,” said police spokesman Burkhard Rick.

As reported, a police patrol came across the 15-year-old from Hennef and a companion near the scene of the incident while the fire was still being extinguished. Since he had previously been reported missing from a young person’s home in Lohmar, officers took him into custody. Police said he showed great resistance.

The blaze severely damaged Building B at the comprehensive school in Wehrstraße on Sunday morning. The fire had spread very quickly from the stairwell onto the roof structure and into adjoining classrooms. An anonymous caller informed the fire brigade that the school was on fire. Police told the GA that investigations had shown the call was made from the 15-year-old’s mobile phone. He was brought before the examining magistrate in the afternoon. He ordered detention because of the flight risk.

Unusual emergency call

The large-scale operation with 126 personnel was preceded by an unusual emergency call, confirmed police spokesperson Burkhard Rick on Sunday. “The caller said ‘The comprehensive school is on fire’ and hung up.” As neither a hoax nor a real emergency call could be ruled out, a fire crew member from Hennef-Happerschoss drove to Wehrstraße at 5.40am to assess if there was a fire, said fire brigade spokesman Thomas Vitiello. “On arrival, the stairwell of Building B was already completely on fire.” The fire brigade triggered major and then full alarms for the city of Hennef and ordered 126 personnel to Hennef.

Within minutes, the fire had spread from the stairwell to the roof structure and the adjoining classrooms on the first floor. Flames blazed metres high into the early morning sky. “Besides extinguishing, two further operations were set up to protect the two neighbouring buildings A and C.” Additional helpers secured the water supply by tapping into a pond 250 metres away as well as various hydrants in the residential area. The head of the operation, Markus Henfel, reported “Fire under control” around 8am.

However, the operation was far from over for the emergency services. Crew members had to spend hours exposing and extinguishing any remaining embers in the roof structure from the two turntable ladders in heavy breathing apparatus. The charred remains of the classrooms on the first floor were flooded with extinguishing foam.

Police are asking for witnesses who may have seen anything suspicious which could be connected to the fire to contact them on 02241/5413521.

(Original text: Thomas Heinemann, Marcel Dörsing. Translation: kc)