STUDENTS, staff and local residents were shocked one winter Friday night 17 years ago when Kelso High School burnt to the ground.
More than 150 firefighters battled to save the building, but could do nothing as the raging inferno engulfed the entire school complex.
Such was the severity of the fire, it could be seen from most parts around Bathurst.
Countless historical items, school records and student projects were destroyed in the fire and one man that distinctly remembers that harrowing event is former teacher and local resident Graeme Hanger.
Mr Hanger, who only lives a stone's throw away from Kelso High, was informed by a neighbour that evening that the school was engulfed by flames.
"I live at the back of Kelso High School. My next door neighbour rang the doorbell just after eight o'clock and said, 'Do you realise there's a fire in the school?'," he recollected.
"Two and a half hours later, it was burnt to the ground.
"It burnt really quickly. It started in the north-west corner and it was gone within a couple of hours.
"[Former teacher Hans Stroeve] Stroevey, he taught his whole teaching career there. He lost a lot of stuff. He had records and all that sort of stuff."
Mr Hanger, who taught at Kelso from 1991-2016, was not present at school the day of the fire, but he said there were reports of a strange smell throughout the school. No one could've ever expect what would ultimately unfold later that night.
"I wasn't at school the day it happened. I was down in Sydney for a sports meeting," he said.
"Apparently there was still the smell of smoke in the school. It was sort of a dusty, musty smell. Not a pen stuck in the gas heater. It It was checked out and it was all good.
"Warren Hickey was in there teaching a karate class and he finished up around 7pm. There was no sign of fire then.
"An excursion came back around that time too and there was no sign of fire but by eight o'clock, the fire had taken hold and the rest is history, pretty much."
Mr Hanger, the then year 12 advisor, said it was incredible that his senior students only missed one day of school.
"I was the year 12 advisor and the good thing is, the year 12 students lost one day of school, that being the Monday afterwards," he said.
"The started back on the Tuesday up at the TAFE."
The rest of the high school was ultimately split up across the city at available locations including Bathurst High School.
To deal with the fire, brigades from Orange, Lithgow, Leura, Katoomba and Blackheath were called in to assist.
Even an aeroplane with a water bomb was brought in from Penrith to dump water on the fire from above.
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