A MAJOR fire has broken out in a classroom block at a Southend school.

Firefighters were called to a fire at Cecil Jones Academy, in Eastern Avenue, just before 4.30pm yesterday.

Crews reported the roof and the first floor of the two-storey property were alight and the building was completely smoke logged.

In total, 12 separate fire crews have attended the scene, including a water bowser and the county's incident command unit.

The fire service have now confirmed the fire was caused by 'works being carried out by buiding contractors on the roof.'

On one of the hottest days of the year, incident commander Neil Fenwick reported that crews were working in "arduous conditions" as they fought to prevent the fire from spreading to the rest of the building.

Crews will remain at the site overnight to monitor the school building.

Mr Fenwick said:"When crews arrived they discovered the roof and first floor of one building were well alight.

"Initially, we had difficulties with the water supply, so our crews quickly set about establishing an alternative supply.

"Crews used a nearby swimming pool and a water main from further down the road to establish a good supply. We also requested the attendance of a water bowser to help with firefighting operations.

"At the peak of the incident, we had 12 fire engines and the aerial ladder platform working to tackle the fire.

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

"Crews worked in extremely arduous conditions at this incident, and did an excellent job to contain the fire to the one building. We were also made aware that the building contained a science lab which had some hazardous materials.

"Although the room was far away from the fire, crews entered the building and removed these materials for the safety of the incident.

"We had a multi-agency response to this incident, with the police, ambulance service, HART team, the school and Southend Council all working together.

"Six fire engines have now taken over at the scene to extinguish remaining hot spots. Crews will also work with the school to salvage items from the affected building.

"The fire investigation has been carried out, and we can confirm that there wasn't any malicious or suspicious circumstances."

Bev Williams, executive principal at Cecil Jones Academy, said: "I firstly would like to thank the fire service for their fantastic response. Their quick action stopped the fire spreading to any other building in the school, and minimised the damaged to the affected building.

"I would also like to reassure all our year 11 students that the school will be open on Thursday for their GCSE results."

Traffic on Eastern Avenue was brought to a standstill.

Witness Ross Price, of Southend, said: "The flames are coming right out of the roof, about four foot high I would say.

"There is smoke everywhere. It's not coming across the road but it's going the other way.

"While I have been standing here I've seen three fire engines turn up so there are about six here now.

"They are trying to put it out but the flames are just going through the roof."

Another witness, who asked not to be named, said: "It is just awful. I don't know what caused it but apparently it started in the maths department.

"I have been told nobody was hurt. It's just lucky the school is closed."

Maldon and Burnham Standard:

Incident commander Neil Fenwick provides an update at 7pm (Video: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service)

A Southend Council spokesman said: "Whilst Cecil Jones is an academy, we have been in touch with the headteacher who is on site and has confirmed that this is an accident linked to building works taking place at the school.

"The fire is under control and no-one is hurt."

The blaze has taken place only two days before Year 11 pupils are due to collect their GCSE results.

Despite the fire, youngsters have been told to attend the school as planned on results day.