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Emergency services / Investigation underway after huge fire destroys Moorfield Hotel

Praise for fire crews as community rallies to help those who were evacuated from the blaze

The ruins of the Moorfield Hotel. Photo: Georgia Smith/Shetland News

FIRE CREWS from across Shetland remain on scene at the Moorfield Hotel in Brae following the major blaze which ripped through the building in the early hours of Monday.

Nine appliances, three from Brae and six from other stations in Shetland, as well as teams and resources from the nearby Sullom Voe Terminal, were called just after midnight to the 100-bedroom hotel.

They were confronted with a well-developed fire that had taken hold of the whole of the building’s roof.

All staff and residents, around 70 people, were accounted for and taken to alternative accommodation. There are no reported casualties.

An appeal has been launched to help those who have lost all their possessions in the blaze.

As many as 11 main jets, using water from the nearby sea, and four sets of breathing apparatus were used to tackle the blaze.

By 3am the roof of the seven-year-old building started to cave in and by Monday morning the hotel was reduced to a smouldering shell.

Stuart McCaffer of hotel owner BDL (Shetland) Ltd told Shetland News that the company was “shocked that this has happened to the Moorfield”.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s local senior officer for Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Iain MacLeod said fire crews found a rapidly developing fire.

“Crews remain at the scene as they work to extinguish the fire. I would like to thank local residents for their support and cooperation during this disruptive incident,” he said.

An investigation into what caused such a massive blaze is already underway. There are already circulating several theories of what might have caused the blaze on social media.

One of the people who watched flames engulf the hotel in the early hours was Aisha Rabhi, who lives near the building.

“I woke up to shouting and I thought it was just people outside. I looked outside and my heart sank,” she said.

“I panicked and put clothes on and went outside and I could see all the men outside, some in shorts and pyjamas. I felt so bad for them.”

She said it felt “surreal” watching people’s belongings burn and said she would have ran over with blankets if her daughter was not asleep upstairs.

Police said that the B9076 road from the junction at Co-op in Brae to Scatsta Airport had been closed to allow the emergency services to carry out their investigations.

They requested that motorists and members of the public avoid the area in the meantime, while officers asked all residents within the Brae and Northmavine area to keep their windows closed.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Police Scotland in Shetland on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111 or alternatively attend at Lerwick Police Station.

These aerial shots showing the extent of the devastation. Photos: Courtesy of Martyn Neeson

A spokesperson for Shetland Islands Council said any council tenants with specific concerns should contact the council’s housing service.

Smoke was visible in the sky for a period of time this morning in areas such as Hillswick.

The Moorfield Hotel was build by BDL (Shetland) Ltd at a cost of £6.5 million mainly to provide accommodation for staff at the nearby Shetland Gas Plant.

The hotel opened in August 2013 was due to close at the end of this month after gas plant operator Total did not renew a seven-year contract with the company. Around 45 staff were due to lose their jobs in early August.

BDL (Shetland) director McCaffer said: “We are shocked that this has happened to the Moorfield. Thankfully all of our guests and staff escaped safely from the building.

“There will be a full investigation to identify the cause but it would appear that the fire safety systems have worked to early identify the outbreak of fire and evacuate the hotel.

“We are grateful to the fire fighters for their response.”

Aerial video by Martyn Neeson.

North Mainland councillor Emma Macdonald said: “Absolutely awful news but incredibly glad to hear that all staff and residents are safe.

“Events like this really highlight the incredibly important role of all the emergency services. I hope everyone remains safe.”

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart described the incident as “devastating news”. “Thankfully all occupants are safe and accounted for,” she said.

“In time, it will be important to find out what happened but for the moment my thoughts are with the Moorfield staff, guests and the hotel’s owners. And I thank the emergency services for their response to this dreadful fire.”

A clothes donation collection, meanwhile, had been organised to help out those staying at the hotel who have lost their possessions.

Cat Duncan said in a Facebook post that live-in staff and workmen had lost all their belongings.

The campaign stopped taking donations just a few hours after being organised after collecting enough items. Total placed an order to buy in clothes for their workers.

A fundraising page has also been set up.

The 100-bedroom hotel was completely engulfed in flames. Photo: John Waters