AN ARSON attack which ripped through Salendine Nook High School’s new gym caused up to £30,000 worth of damage.
The former cricket pavilion gym was destroyed in the blaze at the weekend which police are now investigating.
And the caretaker of neighbouring Huddersfield New College said the arsonists had risked lives by setting fire to the gym.
It is thought vandals used petrol to set fire to the former cricket pavilion at the New Hey Road school late on Friday night as a discarded petrol can was found by a firefighter nearby.
The blaze comes two years after the pavilion had been converted into a fitness suite and was filled with high-tech treadmills, rowing machines and other exercise equipment.
Two fire engines from Huddersfield and one from Dewsbury battled all Friday night and Saturday morning to put out the blaze.
They managed to prevent the fire spreading to other school buildings, but were unable to save the gym.
An explosion from beer kegs and gas cylinders left by Salendine Nook Old Boy’s Cricket Club, who had previously used the pavilion, blew out one of the walls.
Huddersfield Fire Station watch manager Tony Bateman, who attended the fire, said: “The building was well alight when we got there.
“We had to go back every two hours because it was still smouldering to check it was completely out.”
Another Huddersfield firefighter said a petrol can had been found near the scene.
The school had been filling the gym with new equipment over the last two years.
But now 1,500 pupils have been left without gym equipment and will be forced to use the fitness suite at neighbouring Huddersfield New College.
New College caretaker Phil Hamer was one of the first on the scene.
Mr Hamer said: “The school had just spent quite a considerable amount of money getting gym equipment over the last 18 months to two years.
“Some work had been done to the building as well. Two caretakers estimate there’s been about £30,000 of damage.
“It had been used on Friday before this happened.
“We’ve had a large amount of gangs hanging around the last three or four weeks – sometimes there’s 40 kids.
“It’s annoying because the school has a lot of facilities and people will miss out because it’s been abused.
“They will have a great prison-like fence around it and no one will get to use it.
“People like that are risking everyone else’s lives. There were three fire engines wasting their time for these idiots.
“It’s like when people set the fire alarm off. It could be their grandma who’s trapped in her burning house while the fire brigade deal with something like this.
“The acting headteacher and two of the sports teachers came and they were just gutted.
“Now they’re back to square one and they’re going to have to use our college’s fitness suite.
“There’s 1,500 pupils at SNHS and 2,200 at the college. How are they going to use it all at the same time?”
Fire crews returned at two-hourly intervals until late on Saturday morning to ensure the fire was fully out.