POLICE warned Bolton Council to board up windows at a former primary school building — just hours before it was destroyed in a mystery blaze.
Neighbours had complained that Clarendon Primary School’s former home had become a target for vandals since it closed in May.
The large Victorian building in Clarendon Street, Great Lever, went up in flames at about 6pm on Monday.
Fire investigators spent hours at the scene yesterday but have so far been unable to confirm what caused the blaze.
They are not ruling out the possibility that the 128-year-old building was deliberately set alight in an arson attack.
About 24 hours earlier, police attended the school following reports a group of youths had smashed some windows.
Officers contacted Bolton Council to discuss security at the site as they feared it could happen again during school holidays.
At 10pm on Sunday, they were told the council would be sending someone out to “board up the ground floor”.
At the time the building caught fire, a few windows at the front of the school had been boarded up but the rest of the ground floor had not.
Bolton Council said workers went out to the school on Sunday night to board up the broken windows.
A spokesman added there have been “a few” incidents where windows have been broken since the school was vacated.
A resident from Lumsden Street, whose house is directly at the back of the school, said he called the police to investigate break-ins at the school.
He claimed officers were surprised more had not been done by the council to make the school secure.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “People have been coming in and out and the lights have been on past midnight.
“Last week we called the police because some vandals had got in and they said they would do a report and pass it on to the council.”
A police spokesman said: “We were called to Clarendon Street at 6.20pm on Sunday to a case of criminal damage.
“Some youths who were about 10 years old had been trying to break windows at a school.
“Later the council called us and said they were sending someone out to board up the ground floor.”
Council bosses said the building had already been earmarked for demolition and they were in the process of appointing a contractor.
A council spokesman said: “Since becoming empty the burglar alarm has remained in operation and we have responded to a few incidents where windows have been broken.
“The building was inspected regularly and re-secured whenever an incident was reported.
“The safety of local residents is of paramount importance and our priority is to make the site secure so demolition can be undertaken as soon as possible.”
Fire crews tackled the blaze, which ripped through the roof of the disused building throughout the night.
Two fire pumps and an aerial appliance were still at the scene yesterday.
A police spokesman said they are working with the fire service and that inquiries are ongoing but a cause has still not been determined.
The fire was initially tackled by stand-in crews as it fell between 5pm and 7pm when firefighters were on strike.
Clarendon moved to its new school, across the road in Bridgeman Street, in April, and the old building was listed for demolition so it could become a community green space.