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Emergency services / Moorfield owner reflects on devastating fire

Fire crews initially hoped they would be able to extinguish the fire

The Moorfield Hotel site on Tuesday afternoon. Photo: Shetland News

THE OWNERS of the Moorfield Hotel in Brae have said they are relieved and grateful that everybody managed to escape unharmed from the burning building on Monday.

Stuart McCaffer, a director with BDL (Shetland) Ltd, is currently in the isles to assist the emergency services with their enquiries into the cause of the massive blaze, as well as supporting the company’s employees affected by the fire.

The 100-bedroom building, built by the Glasgow based hotel developers seven years ago, was destroyed in the early hours of Monday after a small fire in the second floor linen room developed quickly to engulf the entire building within an hour.

The hotel was due to close in early August with the loss of 45 jobs after the company had lost its main contract accommodating employees working at the nearby Shetland Gas Plant.

McCaffer said he had no interest in responding to the many conspiracy theories circulating on social media, and spoke instead of some of the plans for the hotel following its closure.

The businessman said the hotel was fitted with a “state of the art” fire alarm system and staff were therefore quickly alerted to a fire in a second floor linen room at around half past midnight.

“The fire alarm went off, identified the area, and it was investigated. The person on night duty tried to tackle the fire but was unable to,” he said.

That was when the fire services were called and the evacuation of the building got under way.

“The fire integrity of the building was sufficient for everybody to escape unharmed,” McCaffer said.

On arrival, fire crews from Brae were able to reach the linen room and they attempted to extinguish the fire, but it appears the fire had already reached the loft above where it quickly spread.

“I believe the fire brigade initially felt they would be able to put the fire out and then latterly were unable to,” McCaffer said.

He confirmed that the linen room also contained a number of satellite boxes and the suspicion is that the fire started here due to an electrical fault. He said the investigation by specialists from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will hopefully bring clarity.

An hour later, by 1.30am, the first photos of the hotel’s entire roof engulfed in flames were shared on social media.

He added: “Absolutely devastated at the loss of the building but I feel so grateful that there was no loss of life.”

The Moorfield Hotel was opened in August 2013 mainly to accommodate workers from the Shetland Gas Plant.

Following a meeting with local police, McCaffer met his employees later on Tuesday to arrange emergency support for the six live-in staff who lost all their possessions in the fire.

“They are shell-shocked,” he said.

“The community has been amazing rallying around them, but we also have a duty of care towards them; we are helping them out with emergency support and longer term support.”

McCaffer also said that prior to the fire BDL had been involved in various discussions to find a use for the building once it closed in August.

“While we saw the end of the Total contract, we saw that as the end of the first phase of the building’s life,” he said.

“We were discussing with many people different options for the hotel – there were plenty of different potential futures for the hotel, a different style of hotel operation, some self-catering perhaps, or even a different usage for the building.

“We had architects’ drawings of reconfiguring the building – so there were many ideas, and I very much wanted the building to be there for the benefit of the community.”

Whether BDL (Shetland) would be back with a new hotel once the site is cleared was too early to say, McCaffer insisted, but he did not rule it out.