Firefighters were called to the nursery in Garston on Saturday evening after a staff member who lived nearby saw smoke coming from the building.
Jenna Geggie, director of the four Honey Pot settings in Liverpool, joined members of staff on the road to watch the building burn.
‘I just remember crying and being hysterical,’ she said. ‘Within about 45 minutes the fire coming from the baby room had ripped through the building to the opposite side. The flames were spreading so quickly, it was impossible to stop them.’
Merseyside Police said it is investigating reports the fire was started deliberately.
‘Apparently six youths were messing around and set fire to a tree,’ Ms Geggie said. ‘They weren’t deliberately targeting the nursery but a branch caught the corner of the roof and quickly spread throughout the building.’
The view from the other side of the nursery building from where the fire started shows the roof has completely collapsed
Ms Geggie said the damage to the nursery is extensive. ‘There’s not a resource left. Not a book, a role play corner, a table or a chair. If they’ve not been completely destroyed they have smoke or water damage.
‘It’s beyond repair. The staff have worked so hard at that nursery and I was so proud of it and of all of them. Just on Friday a member of staff sent photos to our WhatsApp group of a new reading area they had completely revamped, and two weeks ago we had a new defibrillator installed. There’s tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to resources and hundreds of thousands to the building.’
The sensory room was destroyed in the fire
The nursery has 126 children on roll and employs 24 members of staff.
‘This has affected hundreds of people,’ Ms Geggie continued. ‘We have parents who are unable to work because they don’t have childcare. It’s massive upheaval for the children and their families.
‘The staff have families to feed and mortgages to pay too. Of course we are still paying them as we couldn’t possibly leave them out of pocket as a result of this mindless act.’
The first picture taken of the inside of the nursery after the blaze
The nursery is looking for new premises for a minimum of a year while the building is restored.
Ms Geggie said, ‘We are insured for the cost of the building but I’m not sure yet if temporary accommodation will be covered. It’s been very difficult with the bank holiday because we didn’t get a response until Tuesday, but now we have got the wheels turning.’
The nursery group has its eye on the unused former Parklands Family and Children’s Centre not far from the Garston setting.
‘We have spoken to the local authority but they have suggested splitting the children up across other settings,’ Ms Geggie said. ‘That’s not acceptable to us. We are a little family here, and the children all have their friendship groups. We need alternative premises as soon as possible to minimise upheaval and disruption to their lives.’
A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council commented, ‘We are currently in discussions with Honey Pot Nurseries to try to secure them alternative premises. There are a number of different options being looked at at this stage, with Parklands one of the options they are interested in.
‘We are keen to help and understand this is a very difficult time. They have a bit of breathing space at the moment as all the children have been accommodated for two weeks, but we are working closely with them to look at options for long-term temporary accommodation. It is clearly in everyone’s interests to find accommodation for the children as soon as possible.’
Patricia Hanson, director of business development for the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘We were shocked and horrified to hear about the fire that devastated Honey Pot’s Garston nursery, but relieved that nobody was hurt.
‘Local families and children need continuity of care and as such, we believe that Liverpool City Council must make rehousing this nursery a priority.
‘We have been supporting the nursery team and understand that they were keen to move to a former nursery building nearby. We hope that Liverpool City Council will do everything it can to get this outstanding nursery back up and running in the most suitable building within the locality as soon as possible.’
After creating a drop-off site for donations at Honey Pot Nurseries’ Wavertree setting, the Garston site has been given a number of toys but now needs larger furniture and funds for storage until a long-term temporary home can be secured.
Ms Geggie said the support had been ‘overwhelming’.
‘It has been so heart-warming to see how much people want to help, love us, and want to see us back on our feet as soon as they can.
‘I think I’m running out of tears, but the support has been fantastic.’
- A JustGiving page to raise funds for the nursery has been set up here