SCHOOL staff helped to put out a blaze after teenage arsonists set fire to a shed on an allotment site.

Youngsters are understood to have set a compost heap on the boundary of the Eastern Avenue Allotment Association site alight. One shed belonging to the association was completely destroyed as the flames spread. Another shed was damaged after the blaze reignited after firefighters left the scene.

Staff from nearly Cecil Jones Academy, in Eastern Avenue, Southend, joined association members as they tackled the flames.

The blaze broke out at about 1.30pm on Friday. It is thought it might have been sparked by a discarded cigarette.

Carol Garside, chairman of the association, said: “There are bushes that run all the way along that side of the allotments and kids congregate in there all the time.”

Firefighters spent nearly an hour putting out the blaze initially. Once they left the scene the fire restarted - leaving association members and a buildings manager from the school to stop it spreading.

The destroyed shed belonged to the association and contained gardening equipment. The shed damaged by the second blaze is said to belong to a plot holder and is brand new.

A spokesman for Essex Fire Service said: “Firefighters were called to a fire involving a shed which measured approximately 2m by 3m. When crews arrived at the incident they reported the whole shed was on fire.

“Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by 2:20pm. The whole shed was destroyed by the fire.

“The fire is thought to have been started by a discarded cigarette which caught light to an area of grass next to the shed.”

A plot holder, who asked not to be named, believes the blaze could have been much worse. He added: “I don’t think they intended to do it but it could have been worse if there had been any gas cannisters in there.

“We don’t get too many problems, but kids do tend to congregate there, especially in the school holidays. This sort of thing could give all the kids a bad name.”

The Echo contacted Cecil Jones Academy for comment but did not recieve a response before going to print.