Suspicious fire guts college block

Invercargill police are investigating the destruction of a James Hargest College classroom block by fire, which is being treated as suspicious.

Fire crews from Invercargill, Kingswell and Wallacetown responded to the emergency call at 5.50am yesterday and found the building well alight.

Southern region fire safety officer Mike Cahill, of Invercargill, was at the scene until 2pm yesterday when the investigation ''in its entirety'' was handed over to the Invercargill police.

Detective Dougall Henderson said anyone who saw, or knew of, any suspicious behaviour around the school early yesterday should contact Invercargill police.

''We believe it [the fire] was deliberately lit. There are indicators which tell us that, but it's too early to say whether it is linked to any other fires we've had in Invercargill recently,'' he said.

It appeared the classroom block had been broken into, Det Henderson said.

''We believe entry was forced into the building.''

He said the block could be cordoned off from the rest of the school as a safety precaution if necessary.

Mr Cahill said the classroom block destroyed by fire was new and had yet to be used.

Contractors had been putting the ''finishing touches'' to the classrooms before the start of the 2013 school year, he said.

''It had been worked on for quite some time and they were just about ready to finish it for the new term. They were painting interior walls and things like that,'' he said.

The new block comprised ''six or seven'' classrooms and was located in the centre of the school's senior complex, Mr Cahill said.

The school had used space within its junior campus while the new classroom block was being built.

- rosie.manins@odt.co.nz