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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Firefighters tackled a blaze at a historic building under renovation in Glasgow's west end yesterday.
More than 60 firefighters attended the former Maclay student halls of residence in the conservation area of Park Gate, overlooking Kelvingrove Park.
The roof of the five-storey townhouse caught fire shortly after midday. Workers inside the building were evacuated when the alarm was raised, along with residents in nearby Park Quadrant.
As the fire grew, the roof was engulfed by flames and destroyed, causing damage estimated to be in the region of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Smoke could be seen for miles around the city as Strathclyde Fire and Rescue directed water cannons at the ornate Georgian tenement, once a hall of residences for Glasgow University which was being converted into three townhouses.
Crowds of people in the park and office workers gathered to watch the firefighters bring the fire under control.
Lorna McMillan, a 30-year-old support worker who witnessed the fire, said: "I spotted the flames from my flat so I ran round to have a look.
"It is a shame because it is such a beautiful building with a stunning facade. But we should just be thankful that no-one was hurt."
I have put this from the Herald in full because it will go on subscription tomorrow. Yesterday just after midday I noticed (smelled) smoke blowing down the street& being a nosey type, & having a little free time, decided to follow it.

The fire was on the roof of the block. You could see a small flame on the roof of the section where the scaffolding was & a bystander said it was been started by somebody repairing the roof which seemed likely. There was also some smoke coming from the under the tiles in the adjoining section. There were also 3 fire tenders, one with an extendable ladder & a lot of firemen & polis. On the other hand there was no great air of activity.

Indeed it wasn't until about 1 o'clock, after I had been there for about 20 minutes & the fire for at least 40 that the ladder & hoses went into action. By this time the adjoining section of roof was so thoroughly on fire that much of the roof was gone. After a few minutes they seemed to have the fire well under control & I had to go back to work.

I was quite surprised that, during the afternoon, billows of smoke kept going up the road past my window. After work I went to see again & found that the entire building was burned out & that it had spred to destroy the roof of the adjoining building. In fact there were still flames visible through the ground floor windos of the main building. Remember that when 40 minutes after the blaze started it had still been visibly confined to the roof area.

I am not an expert on the emergency services & I do recognise that saving life is the first priority but I really do not see why that building was not saved.

On a more tragic note in May 2004 the Stockline plastics factory blew up a few hundred yards in the other direction (busy neighbourhood) & again on seeing it I was surprised how slowly the work of searching for people know to be buried was going. ( bodies were recovered over the next few days & it was known that several of them were alive after the explosion because they called for help on their mobile phones. The search went slowly because the authorities were unwilling to risk killing people if the debris moved. Would more people have survived if the authorities had been willing to take a few more risks to save lives?

I don't know for sure but I do know it is a question that does not get asked & it should be.

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