PUPILS from The Clere School school were evacuated this afternoon after fire broke out in an outside storage area.

The school, in Earlstone Common, Burghclere was evacuated after the blaze began in the storage area, just off the school’s sports hall.

Firefighters from Overton, Basingstoke and Eastleigh attended the scene after being alerted at around 1.50pm and on arrival found the fire had developed in the roof space.

They were confronted with a problem in the shape of the many solar panels on the roof of the building, which hold an electrical charge meaning it is only safe for firefighters to use compressed air foam.

After using the foam inside the building there were fears the roof may collapse and the crews’ efforts had be briefly halted while a structural engineer from Basingstoke borough council carried out a ten-minute survey.

After being given the green light the firefighters were able to limit the damage to the roof to just 20 per cent.

Station manager at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Dave Graham, who was in charge of the incident, said: “The school was brilliant at evacuating the children in good time.

“Crews worked hard under challenging conditions, hindered by the solar panels, to keep the fire from entering the sports hall and stop what could have been 100 per cent damage to the property.

"Basingstoke council acted quickly to send a structural engineer to the scene, enabling us to carry out an aggressive attack on the fire.”

Firefighters were able to fully extinguish the blaze at 5.19pm and the school will open as normal tomorrow.

The Clere School community assistant Amanda Keable said she initially thought it the smoke was coming from a bonfire across the school field before she realised it was a fully developed fire.

She praised the children and firefighters, saying: “The children were fantastic in evacuating the building and crew have been brilliant in keeping us updated and working hard in hot conditions.

“The senior leadership team of the school did a brilliant job in keeping the children calm and safe.

"You can practise a number of drills but when you're faced with a real fire, children can act differently so it was great that everything came together."