Gardai are investigating the destruction of a €350,000 60 tonne mobile crane at the construction site of the new Ballinamore Community School late last night (Thursday, April 4).
The Ballinamore fire unit was called to the scene of the blaze shortly after 10.30pm. They found a 60 tonne mobile crane, parked adjacent to the new school, engulfed in fire.
It took fire officers over four hours to get the blaze under control and there were a number of explosions, some of which were caused by the tyres on the crane.
Co Leitrim Chief Fire Officer, Finian Joyce, told the Leitrim Observer that there was a substantial amount of oil and fuel on the crane and this made dealing with the fire extremely difficult for the fire services.
Investigations are now underway into the cause of the blaze and gardai believe that the fire may have been maliciously lit.
Both local gardai and the Chief Fire Officer have confirmed that damage has been caused to the new school structure as a result of the intense heat but it is too early to say how badly the building has been impacted. Due to health and safety concerns the site has been closed and will remain closed for forensic examination and a further examination of the structure. Gardai say that the site will not be open until late next week at the earliest.
Ballinamore Post Primary School principal Padraig Leyden said he was contacted last night after someone travelling on the road notice a glow and raised the alarm. Mr Leyden added, “I went to the site and observed a crane on fire.”
Mr Leyden did confirm work on the site will cease temporarily but is confident the project will be completed by the anticipated date of Easter 2014. “The site has been closed by Gardaí pending a forensic investigation. We will lose a couple of days working on the site but I am informed we were ahead of schedule so the school is still expected to be finished by the due date.”
Anyone who noticed any suspicious vehicles or activity in the vicinity of the school site on the Swanlinbar Road out of Ballinamore is asked to contact gardai immediately on (071) 9644002.