Daycare centre disaster

ROSE Franks and the staff at Caterpillar House Occasional Day Care were in shock yesterday at the news that the oldest preschool in Coffs Harbour had been completely gutted by fire.

"The police rang me at 11.30 yesterday morning with the news," Mrs Franks said.

"I've been at Caterpillar House for 10 years, as have many of the staff we're all in tears and devastated."

Mrs Franks said she had no information as to the cause of the fire but said police had set up a crime scene and were investigating.

"It's so so sad. We've made so many improvments. Just last week we heard we had been successful with our application for a community water grant to build a water play area for the kids. Now there's nothing to improve it's just a shell with nothing to retrieve. The building will have to be demolished and removed."

Phoning as many parents as possible was Mrs Franks first priority, followed by making contact with the insurance company.

"We want to give people as much notice as possible so they can find alternative care. Then we'll start on the rebuilding process. We will be looking into the possibility of an interim building but I'm not sure if that will be possible."

She said many in the Coffs Harbour community had spent time at Caterpillar House, which was a preschool up until 1981 when it became a community-owned occasional care centre.

"A lot of people came here as children. They knew and loved the place."

Damage to the building was estimated at $300,000. Coffs Harbour detectives are continuing their enquiries.

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