Glasgow art school fire: Sturgeon says blaze is ‘heartbreaking’

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the fire which has gutted Glasgow’s world-renowned School of Art as “heartbreaking”.

Flames ripped through the celebrated Mackintosh building after it caught fire at about 23:20 on Friday.

No one was injured in the blaze which spread to nearby buildings, including the Campus nightclub and O2 ABC music venue.

The renovated Mackintosh library had been due to reopen next year.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The fire has been a devastating blaze, much worse than the one that took hold of the Mackintosh building four years ago.

“The damage is severe and extensive.

“My heart goes out to everybody associated with the art school.”

The Mackintosh library was destroyed in the blaze that ripped through the building in May 2014. It was being restored in a project estimated to cost up to £35m.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Peter Heath said the fire damage was “exceptionally significant”.

He said it was likely that all the restoration work carried out since the last fire had been destroyed.

About 50 firefighters were still tackling Friday’s blaze with nine fire engines and four-high reach appliances at the scene.

A spokesman said the blaze had now been largely contained, however, a few pockets of fire remained.

Burnt-out art school buildingImage copyrightPA
Image captionThe art school building has been devastated by the fire
Aerial shot of the sceneImage copyrightPOLICE SCOTLAND

After seeing the fire-damaged building for herself, Nicola Sturgeon described it as “just a shell”.

But she said the Scottish government stood “ready to provide any support” in the wake of the blaze.

The first minister added: “It has clearly been a fire a of much greater intensity than the one that took hold four years ago.

“It is too early to speculate about what the future might hold.”

Homes evacuated

A statement from the school of art described the fire as “devastating”.

It added: “The Glasgow School of Art’s immediate focus is on our students, and on the continuing operation of the GSA to ensure minimum disruption to students and staff.

“The GSA and all of its buildings will remain closed for the next week, and we will provide updates as and when information is available.”

Fire crews are concentrating efforts on all four sides of the buildings, from Dalhousie Street to Sauchiehall Street and into Renfrew Street.

Map of Glasgow School of Art

Nearby homes have been evacuated as a precaution. There are not thought to have been any injuries.

At its height, a total of 120 firefighters and 20 fire engines were at the scene.

SFRS area manager David Young said: “The fire has now largely been contained but this remains a protracted incident and our efforts very much continue at this stage to extinguish the fire and ensure the community is protected.

“There will be disruption around Dalhousie Street, Sauchiehall Street and Renfrew Street and I would advise the public to avoid these areas at this present time.

Firefighters at the sceneImage copyrightPA
Image captionFirefighters had to deal with fresh plumes of smoke during the afternoon

Firefighters have been tackling fresh smoke coming from the Campus Club on Sauchiehall Street, which adjoins the Mackintosh building.

A source at Glasgow City Council said crews were dealing with the smoke within seconds of it emerging and it now looked to be under control.

Firefighters sent to the scene had been faced with “an extremely challenging and complex incident”, Deputy Chief Officer Iain Bushell said earlier. All floors of the building were affected.

Fire at Mackintosh buildingImage copyrightPA
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Firefighters used water from the River Clyde to tackle the blaze, resulting in a number of road closures in the area.

Insp Catherine McNally, of Police Scotland, praised the response of both the public and nearby licensed premises which were asked to evacuate.

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The morning after

Graham Fraser, BBC news website

Firefighter at the sceneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Parts of Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street look normal for a Saturday morning. The rain falls heavily on top of chip boxes, the remnants providing breakfast for many a hungry bird.

But the presence of fire engines, police officers, bewildered passers-by and an acrid smell of smoke in the air indicate this is far from normal.

Smoke still billows from the Glasgow School of Art, the Campus nightclub and the O2 ABC venue, with all the streets around the area closed.

Once again, the people of Glasgow are watching on as one of its most famous buildings is on fire.

Once again, the words “so sad” are heard on every corner.

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Ben, an eyewitness, told the BBC the latest fire looked “much worse” than the previous one.

“This is a blaze, the building is just going up like a tinderbox. It’s quite shocking,” he said.

Glasgow School of Art ‘extensively damaged’

Media captionGlasgow School of Art ‘extensively damaged’
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At the scene

Aileen Clarke, BBC Scotland

Water is still being pumped onto Glasgow School of art this morning, though firefighters now say they have contained the blaze which has so extensively ravaged the Mackintosh building there may still be pockets of fire flaring up.

The operation on the ABC building next door they still describe as active firefighting, the fire spread to the roof of that building though it’s smoke more than flames visible from the street, now.

Deputy assistant chief fire officer Peter Heath says there is damage to every part of the Mackintosh building, and the fire had such a grip of the building when they arrived here just after 23:15 last night, that they don’t know where it started let alone how.

Initial impressions are that it seems unlikely that any of the restoration work carried out since fire ripped through the building four years ago, will have survived this latest blaze.

Connor Neil, 22, said people were being evacuated from their homes and there was a “big orange light” which could be seen from streets away.

Fire fighters battle a blaze at the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art for the second time in four yearsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe building was undergoing restoration works after the previous fire in 2014

One Twitter user posted a video of the O2’s roof appearing to collapse as firefighters sprayed water onto the building from an aerial platform.

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Crowds look on as firefighters tackle the blazeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLarge crowds gathered and looked on as firefighters tackled the blaze
Fire in art schoolImage copyrightEPA
Image captionThe fire ripped through the newly-restored building on Friday night
A photo of the fireImage copyrightROCCO GIUDICE
Image captionThe fire could be seen throughout Glasgow city centre
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Stuart Robertson, the director of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society, said the second fire was “unbelievable”.

“It is like deja vu from four years ago,” he said.

“Last weekend was a joyous occasion, we were celebrating Mackintosh’s 150th birthday and the rebirth of the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street, the Hill House in Helensburgh is about to have major restoration and we were looking forward to the reopening of this building after four years since the last fire.”

‘Like a nightmare’

Mr Robertson said he had been in the building a few weeks ago to look at how the restoration was progressing.

He said the famous “hen-run” had been restored, work on the library was well under way and the studios “looked amazing”.

“This is like a nightmare,” he said.

“I can’t put into words how heartbroken I feel.”

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney described the building, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, as “the most architecturally important building in Glasgow”.

The Labour politician said the restoration effort had suffered a “horrific setback” which he hoped would be overcome.

“We cannot lose this building,” he added.

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Mr Sweeney went on to say: “The 1909 library extension, that was the origin of the 2014 blaze, is now fully alight too.

“It looks like the entire interior space is now fully alight.

“The best we can probably hope for is structural facade retention and a complete rebuild of the interior. Devastating.”

Firefighters continue to battle the fire as dawn breaks over GlasgowImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionFirefighters remained at the scene on Saturday morning
Glasgow School of ArtImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, who had visited the building only two weeks ago, said he was “devastated”.

He said the government “stands ready to help, financially or otherwise”.

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Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said “hard questions” needed to be asked as to why and how the building has suffered two serious fires in four years.

He said: “In the meantime, we can be relived that there appears to have been no serious casualties.”

The Mackintosh building was completed in 1909 based on designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scotland’s most-lauded designer.

It has been described as “a working art school as well as a work of art”, and has an A-list rating from Historic Scotland.

In recent years, the school has produced many of the UK’s leading contemporary artists such as Douglas Gordon, Alison Watt, David Shrigley, and three recent Turner Prize winners: Simon Starling in 2005, Richard Wright in 2009 and Martin Boyce in 2011.

Other former students include actors Robbie Coltrane and Peter Capaldi, and artist Peter Howson.

The fire in 2014, caused by a faulty projector, destroyed the building’s library, which was recognised as being one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world.

Undated handout photo of a full-size model of a section of the fire-gutted Mackintosh Library, which has been unveiled as work continues to restore the building to its original 1910 design.Image copyrightPA
Image captionThe original Mackintosh library (pictured before the fire) was considered one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world
The ruined Mackintosh Library after the 2014 blazeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe Mackintosh Library was destroyed in the 2014 blaze

Source: BBC