Hundreds of Birmingham children were saved from a huge blaze which gutted their historic school – because they were on their lunchtime break.
Pupils were enjoying the sunshine in the playground when the roof caught fire at Harborne Primary School on Station Road, Harborne, on Wednesday lunchtime.
About 600 children and staff were moved to safety when the alarm was raised by contractors carrying out work on the roof of the century-old school, which is just off Harborne’s busy High Street.
Plumes of black smoke were sent billowing into the sky as 60 firefighters battled for more than four hours to bring the blaze under control.
Eye witness Paul Bishton, whose home backs on to one of the school buildings, described seeing smoke “pouring” from the roof of the school.
The 39-year-old said: “I could just see all this smoke coming from the roof of the structure facing the playground.
“The school playground had an eerie calmness, and I didn’t see any of the children, so they must have evacuated them very quickly, but you could see what looked like members of staff running around.
“When I saw the smoke I went over with a fire extinguisher but by then the first fire engines had started to arrive.”
Roads around the school remained closed for several hours while fire crews used water jets to bring the blaze under control.
Pupils were moved to the nearby Gala Bingo Hall and St John’s church hall until parents could collect their children.