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Fire destroys Fair Isle Bird Observatory

The observatory was completely destroyed in the fire.

THE WORLD famous bird observatory in Fair Isle was destroyed in a huge fire on Sunday.

The small island’s own fire crew was called out just before midday to a fire in the roof of the 10 year old wooden building.

They were quickly joined by a crew from Lerwick that had been flown to the island by the Coastguard helicopter.

A second crew from Lerwick and one from Sandwick were mobilised later on Sunday afternoon. Additional equipment was taken to Fair Isle by Lerwick lifeboat.

The blaze quickly spread from the roof to the whole building. By Sunday evening much of the building was destroyed while the fire was still burning.

Everybody has been accounted for and there are no injuries. There is uncertainty whether or not the records of 70 years of bird observation had been rescued from the building before the fire took hold.

Local politicians and birdwatchers have spoken of their horror at the devastation.

MSP Tavish Scott said the loss of the observatory was “a colossal blow” to the island.

“First and foremost it is a great relief that no one was hurt in the fire. The local volunteer fire crew and the teams flown in by helicopter from the Shetland mainland deserve great credit for tackling such a large fire,” he said.

The £4m bird observatory was opened in June 2010.

“My personal thoughts are with the brilliant staff who run the Obs and have lost all their possessions in today’s fire.

“Fair Isle has my full support in these difficult days as the impact on the entire island of losing the Obs becomes all too clear.”

President of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust, Roy Dennis, said in a tweet: “Absolutely tragic news – our famous Fair Isle Bird Observatory has been lost to fire.

“Thank goodness no loss of life but heartfelt sympathy to David, Susannah and family and the islanders. We will rebuild. We have lost much and will lose a year. Close to my heart – very very sad.”

The new Fair Isle Bird Observatory was only opened in June 2010 following a £4 million investment from a number of funding bodies including the trust that runs the observatory.