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Pictures show destruction of massive blaze at island factory

Organisers of a traditional music festival in the Western Isles are appealing for help after a factory blaze destroyed all of the children’s instruments being stored there.

Accordians, guitars, keyboards and chanters, as well as shinty sticks and Harris Tweed crafts items were among the items lost to the three-day fire which ripped through a fish net washing factory on the island of Scalpay off Harris.

They were being kept there ahead of the annual Fèis Eilean na Hearadh, a popular children’s Gaelic culture summer school attended by up to 100 participants.

Factory-Scalpay-2

And some 14 people now have no work to go to as the net station has been completely destroyed.

The extent of damage to the building has also made it too dangerous to enter the building to hose down patches where the fire is still burning.

The risk of injury is also impeding an investigation into the major blaze.

Half of the islands’ fire-engines were called out with 30 firefighters battling for many hours to bring the flames under control.

Scalpay-factory

The extreme low tide posed problems for firefighters desperate for many tonnes of seawater to spray the flames. As the sea receded pumps had to kept being relocated further out from shore to prevent hoses running dry.

Donald Ian MacLennan of the fèis group said the group plans to launch a funding appeal to buy new instruments before the event starts in two months.

They have asked islanders to donate second hand instruments to allow the event to go-ahead.

Mr MacLennan said: “This is a big blow. Hopefully we will bounce back.

“The fèis encourages interest and participation in the arts and the Gaelic language and we were using the factory as storage for all our instruments.

“The fèis is being held in July when we will celebrate our 25th anniversary.”

A 30-year archive of the local Harris newsletter was also burnt as was all the records of Harris Voluntary Service.

Iain Macleod, Western Isles group manager at the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said it was a “significant” fire with a number of hotspots still burning some three days later.

Scalpay-Factory3

He praised fire-fighters, coastguard teams and police for excellent coordination during the fire which started at about 5pm on Friday, after employees had left.

The local community also turned out to preparing food for the fire-fighters.