Belfast Telegraph

Teens behind arson spree at old Derry school ‘risking lives’

Firefighters at the Thornhill College site, where there was a second arson attack on Tuesday night
Firefighters at the Thornhill College site, where there was a second arson attack on Tuesday night
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

Youths who set fires on the derelict site of a former school have been warned they are putting their lives in danger.

A gang of teenagers is being blamed for two blazes in as many days at Thornhill College in Londonderry.

The Fire Service had to deal with incidents on Monday and Tuesday nights.

They are believed to have been the work of a teenage gang.

The first fire was in the assembly hall.

Firefighters returned to the site the following night to deal with a second blaze, this time on the roof. Three appliances and 25 crew were called out to deal with that incident.

The buildings, which have been vacant for over a decade, are deemed unsafe and have been repeatedly vandalised.

The old school will be demolished once the new owner begins work on a retirement village on the site, planning permission for which was recently secured.

Derry Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy warned young people to keep off the site for their own safety.

She said: "After speaking with security staff who patrol this site about these two arson attacks, they told me up to 30 young people have been hanging around and the PSNI neighbourhood team have identified some of those youths and will be speaking to them in relation to these fires.

"If there is evidence that they were there then charges will be brought, so these young people could be facing a criminal record.

"Besides that, these young people should be aware of the great danger they are putting their own lives in, because none of these buildings are safe and there is a risk they could fall in around them.

"The developers are not concerned about the buildings because once they go on site they are going to be demolishing them, but they, too, are worried about the safety of the youths, who are in their early teens."

Ms Duffy added: "Not only are these young people putting their lives at risk but they are also wasting valuable Fire Service resources which could be better spent dealing with real emergencies.

"I would call in the strongest terms possible for these young people to keep out of this site and to stop wasting the time and resources of the Fire Service."

SDLP councillor Angela Dobbins also hit out over the arsons.

She said: "The youths involved are putting their lives and the lives of their friends in extreme danger. The roofs of these derelict buildings are so unsafe now that if they were to collapse it would result in a 15-20 foot drop with severe consequences."

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