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Emergency services / Fire service hands over Moorfield site to police as investigations continue

Shetland fire chief Matt Mason said the fire had been “extremely challenging”

The Moorfield Hotel was burnt to the ground in a major blaze start started in the early hours of Monday. Photo: Georgia Smith/Shetland News

THE FIRE service has now handed over the Moorfield Hotel site in Brae to the police as investigations continue.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Shetland Matt Mason said the handover took place on Wednesday.

He said on Thursday that fire crews have been “periodically inspecting the site checking safety and checking for any hotspots in the debris”.

The alarm was raised shortly after midnight on Monday morning after the hotel caught fire.

Everyone in the hotel – around 70 people – were safely evacuated, with no injuries reported. The building, however, burned to the ground.

Mason described the fire, which initially took hold of the upper section of the hotel, as “extremely challenging”.

“At the height of the fire there would have been 60 fire fighters on the ground,” he added.

At the peak 10 appliances were on scene from stations across Shetland, including Brae, Lerwick, Hillswick, Sandwick and Bressay.

Photo supplied via the fire service.

“It offered different challenges to [last year’s] bird observatory fire in Fair Isle, because of the scale of the building,” Mason said.

“The building had been well alight, and clearly it required an awful lot of water and large numbers of personnel and appliances to try to keep it under control.

“We were rotating the crews to get them rested. But at the height of the operations we had most of the staff deployed at that point because we were using breathing apparatus to fight the fire externally, and it was really resource intensive.”

Mason praised the multi-agency approach to responding to the incident, with the police, ambulance service and the coastguard providing assistance as well as the fire crew at Sullom Voe Terminal, who brought kit and equipment.

He added that the direction of wind for the initial stages of the incident was “quite kind” as it allowed smoke to travel away from Brae.

The wind did later change direction, however, with local residents asked to shut their windows.

Mason reiterated that the investigation into the fire will be ongoing in the next few weeks, and that he could not comment on the possible cause.

Matt MasonMatt Mason.

There is a suspicion, however, that the fire could have started following an electrical fault in a linen room which contained a number of satellite TV boxes.

Mason, meanwhile, had strong praise for the community who went out of their way to support the fire crews on scene with food and drink.

“The residents were phenomenal,” the fire chief said.

“They came off their own accord and brought food and refreshments for the team. And the local shops [helped too].

“And not just Brae, it was felt a bit wider actually, when the crews that were standing by in Lerwick, they were supported to make sure that they were fed and refreshed because they knew they were going to be at the incident later on.”

“But in Brae, the hall committee made soup and sandwiches for the guys, it was really, really humbling and really heart warming to experience that kind of support when, in amongst all of that, those people were being affected by the smoke.”

Local senior officer for Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Iain Macleod said on Twitter that the determination of the fire crews and the network of support in the islands is “second to none”.

“A special mention also to the amazing residents of Brae who not only rallied round evacuated residents but also gave brilliant support to their firefighters with food and hot drinks delivered,” he said.

“As we navigate the anxiety of Covid it is great to see communities safely support us.”