Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow art school fire: Sturgeon says blaze is 'heartbreaking'

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Media captionAerial footage shows scale of the Glasgow School of Art fire

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described the fire which 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.

The blaze spread to nearby buildings, including the Campus nightclub and O2 ABC music venue, but no-one was reported injured.

Firefighters said it was "too early" to comment on the cause.

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."

Interactive Before and after: Glasgow School of Art from the air

After the fire on 16 June 2018

Aerial view of Glasgow School of Art and surrounding buildings after the fire on 15/16 June 2018

Before the fire - Google Earth 2018

Aerial view of Glasgow School of Art and surrounding buildings before the fire - Google Earth 2018
Image caption The art school building was under reconstruction from the first fire in 2014
Image caption The art school and a neighbouring building were devastated in the fire

The Mackintosh library, which was recognised as being one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world, was destroyed in the blaze that ripped through the building in May 2014.

The A-listed building, considered to be Charles Rennie Mackintosh's masterpiece, was being restored in a project estimated to cost up to £35m and was due to reopen next year.

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.

That work was being carried out by Kier Construction which had been awarded the multi-million pound restoration contract.

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Media captionNicola Sturgeon: Glasgow fire is heartbreaking

A statement from the company said that while the investigation about the fire was ongoing it would be "inappropriate to comment further".

It added: "Kier has been working with the Glasgow School of Art since 2016 on the restoration of the Mackintosh building and so we share the devastation felt by the School and the wider public at this time."

The aftermath, by Graham Fraser, BBC news website

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Media captionCity in shock after art school ravaged by fire during multi-million pound restoration.

The Glasgow School of Art fire - the second major blaze at the internationally-renowned building in the past four years - has created headlines around the world. For the people of Glasgow, it has come as a great, sad shock.

I first arrived on the scene on Saturday morning and walked along Sauchiehall Street, an area of the city synonymous with a good night out. Pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, music venues, and the scene of yet another devastating blaze.

The words I heard as I walked around the police cordon time and time again were "so sad".

Sad that the School of Art has been gutted again.

Sad that one of Glasgow's gems, from my amateur eye, looks like it may never recover.

Area manager David Young said about 50 firefighters were continuing to extinguish a few pockets of fire but it was a "very difficult job".

But he would not speculate on where or how the fire started.

Mr Young said: "Colleagues who were at the fire four years ago said it was less devastating than it is now.

"Damage is from one end of the building to the other. The roof is damaged and the floors. The building is in a poor state."

Mr Young said the fire was well-developed when firefighters arrived late on Friday evening.

Crews were brought in from as far away as Perth and West Lothian to tackle the blaze, but forensic experts have not yet been able to access the building because it is not safe.

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.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption At the height of the fire, hoses ran down to the River Clyde which provided a key source of water
Image copyright PA
Image caption Firefighters had to deal with fresh plumes of smoke during the afternoon

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 have been concentrating efforts on all four sides of the buildings, from Dalhousie Street to Sauchiehall Street and into Renfrew Street.

Nearby homes were 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.

Image copyright PA

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.

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.

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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The 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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Large crowds gathered and looked on as firefighters tackled the blaze

Comedian Billy Connolly was among the crowd of onlookers in the area earlier on Saturday.

And Travis singer Fran Healy tweeted: "I cannot believe @GSofA is on fire again. So so sad."

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 flammable gases from a canister of expanding foam, destroyed the building's library, which was recognised as being one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The fire ripped through the newly-restored building on Friday night
Image copyright Rocco Giudice
Image caption The fire could be seen throughout Glasgow city centre

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."

Prime Minister Teresa May tweeted: "I'm saddened to hear of the fire overnight in the iconic Mackintosh building.

"We stand ready to support the Scottish government in restoration efforts."

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.

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."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Firefighters remained at the scene on Saturday morning
Image copyright Getty 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".

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."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The original Mackintosh library (pictured before the first fire) was considered one of the finest examples of art nouveau in the world
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Mackintosh Library was destroyed in the 2014 blaze

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