An early morning blaze which swept through a derelict hall behind flats in Burntisland High Street resulted in around a dozen residents having to be evacuated from their homes.
The blaze, which broke out around 1.00 a.m. on Saturday saw flames shooting 30 feet into the air as around 40 firefighters and five engines tackled the inferno which is believed to have been started deliberately.
Nearby residents who were woken by choking black smoke were evacuated by police as it was confirmed that the former play centre, owned by Fife Council, contained asbestos.
They had to spend around three and a half hours in the police station until it was safe for them to return home.
Keiron Cameron (29), lives with his father Neil who has run the family butcher’s shop in the High Street for 64 years, in the flat above the shop, right in front of the old hall which has lain derelict for the past 25 years.
He said: “I heard the dog barking and I got up and smelled smoke. I woke my dad and looked out the window, saw the smoke coming from the building and called the fire brigade. They said they were already on their way.
“Within minutes the flames were coming through the roof and the whole building went up really quickly. The flames were shooting about 30 feet into the air, and I was taking photos of it. Luckily the wind was blowing the smoke away from us.
“The roof collapsed pretty quickly and that was the worst of the fire over before the fire service arrived.
“The police evacuated us to the station and we were there until about 3.30 a.m. because they said there were worries about the asbestos.”
Despite their rude awakening the butcher’s shop was open that same morning.
A spokesman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Operations Control Thornton immediately mobilised crews from Burntisland and Kirkcaldy fire stations who were on scene within two minutes.
“On arrival firefighters were faced with an extensive fire affecting all parts of the play centre. Extra resources were requested from Lochgelly and Methil fire stations to attend. At the height of the fire there were five fire appliances and over 40 Firefighters tackling the blaze.
“Firefighters brought the fire under control using four jets and two ground monitors to extinguish the fire.
“Firefighters worked under difficult conditions to bring the blaze under control at around 4.00 a.m. Fire investigation teams are working with Police Scotland to determine the cause of the fire.”
Council under fire over state of building
Local Councillor George Kay said he had been trying to get Fife Council to demolish the building for over nine years.
“I have been met with what I can only describe as a concerted policy of stalling,” he said.
“I very much regret that the cost of removing the danger of this site will now be much more than the cost of an earlier controlled removal.
“I hope that Fife Council takes heed of this warning and looks at the entire stock of derelict buildings within its portfolio and carries out risk assessments.”
Iain Somerville, whose home backs onto the former hall, said he had been lobbying since 2006.
“‘We now have what I can only describe as an environmental catastrophe, with asbestos contamination across a wide area. A number of local gardens are strewn with asbestos debris. The Council has known about this for years, and has done nothing.
‘‘As the condition of the roof continued to deteriorate, I and my neighbours reminded it time and again of the asbestos danger - it has also been aware of the potential for a fire, as there was one in the hall about 14 years ago.
‘‘By not properly securing the rear entrance, it has allowed squatters to inhabit the building on a number of occasions, with the high fire risk.”
Ross Tulloch, lead professional, said the building was held on the Common Good Fund.
“Costs for demolition were obtained in 2005 but no budget identified to carry it out. Access difficulties mean that the costs for demolition are much higher than usual for a building of this size and type.’’
Video courtesy of Keiron Cameron.