CSS goes up in smoke; Student / students might be to blame

Arson appears to have been the cause of a blaze Saturday evening that destroyed one classroom and caused smoke damage to three others at Nevis’ Charlestown Secondary School. According to Nevis fire officials, juveniles may be the culprits.

At about 9 pm the Fire and Rescue Service responded to a blaze at the school. Upon arrival, a small section of the school referred to as D Block was found to be engulfed in flames. That section of the school has three different classrooms, two fourth-form rooms and one fifth form room, which one was completed destroyed. The other classrooms were unable to be utilized because of the smoke damage and as a result, more than 20 students have been displaced.

David Stapleton, divisional fire officer on Nevis says it has been determined the fire was arson, possibly set by juveniles.

The Minister of Education and Premier of Nevis Hon Vance Amory in addressing the matter stated, “it appears that there have been a number of delinquent and I dare say unruly students, who need to be taken under very serious control.”

He noted his concern over the possible development of a culture of anti-social behavior on the island.

“This act on Saturday night is one which has to be condemned by everybody and I have instructed the police to undertake very strict investigations and to bring anyone who is culpable to justice as quickly as possible,” he said.

Continuing he said that it is in “fact very sad and a very serious situation that anyone, no matter how depraved, would wish to destroy any part of a public building such as the Charlestown Secondary School, a physical institution of learning which has served so many and has been the premier secondary school in Nevis for more than half a century.”

The Premier said that they are taking steps to make sure the incident does not happen again by improving lighting for security purpose, installing Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras for monitoring the activity on the premise, getting the security guards of the school who work there during the course of the day to more rigorously assist the principal. They also must ensure that the children are kept under strict control and that they would assist the principal whenever they are called upon.

He added that there will also be an addition of security officers during the evening.
“We have also discussed a number of other issues or strategies which I will not here divulge because they are to do with how do we deal with delinquent persons; persons who are loitering on the premises and persons who we believe are engaged in illegal activity.”

In an unrelated fire, a day before the CSS fire a home in Bath Village has been completely destroyed by fire. According to Stapleton, at around 3 pm on Thursday the Fire and Rescue Service responded to a fire in Bath Village. The house was complete engulfed with fire upon arrival.

The house is normally occupied by three persons. It appeared as though at least one person was at home at the time of the fire but was not harmed. The home was completely destroyed. The cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

Stapleton advised that the fire department should always be alerted during a fire. He said that during an electrical fire the main electrical switch should be shut off before attempting to extinguish the fire with water.

Stapleton noted that both fire incidents have been handed over to the police for further investigation.