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Plea for volunteers after Covid-struck Braemar fire crew couldn’t respond to hotel blaze

Firefighters dousing the flames at the Braemar Lodge Hotel. Picture by Kath Flannery
Firefighters dousing the flames at the Braemar Lodge Hotel. Picture by Kath Flannery

A plea has gone out for more backup firefighters after it emerged that the Braemar crew was unable to help battle a huge fire due to a Covid outbreak.

The Braemar Lodge Hotel exploded into flames last Wednesday morning, with the blaze creeping towards nearby properties as it destroyed the hotel.

Fire crews from as far as Broughty Ferry raced to the scene to help get the blaze under control, in an effort that has been hailed by local leaders.

During a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s communities committee this morning, it became clear just how important that wide response was.

Though Braemar firefighters couldn’t respond due to Covid, many others stepped up. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Heroes descended from far and wide as Covid affected Braemar fire crew

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor Geva Blackett, who lives just a few doors down from the ravaged hotel, explained that local crews had been struck down by coronavirus.

She said: “Last week, the community that I live in saw the impact of Covid hit our local fire crew, when they couldn’t get a team out.

“I want to pay tribute to all the firefighters who came from all over the place, from areas like Broughty Ferry, Blairgowrie, Strathdon and Tomintoul.

“They stopped that fire spreading, which could have been a real disaster…”

Inferno highlights need for reinforcements

Eight fire engines, as well as specialist support teams, were deployed to the scene at around 7.30am.

Nearby residents fled their homes as the 1870 hotel was reduced to a charred shell.

By the time the first crew arrived on the scene, 70% of the hotel had been lost.

Mrs Blackett added: “From what I saw firsthand last week, all communities need to be encouraging people to sign up as retained firefighters.”

Councillor Blackett supplied this image of the horrific blaze.

Braemar fire crew’s Covid cases ‘highlight importance’ of teamwork

Area commander Chay Ewing was at the meeting to update members on the service’s plans in the area.

He explained how fire crews were successfully scrambled to the scene to make up for the local gap.

Mr Ewing said: “We did have a couple of Covid cases at Braemar.

“That incident certainly highlighted the importance of having access to national assets.”

He echoed Mrs Blackett’s calls for people to join sign up as retained or duty firefighters so they can help their communities when catastrophe strikes.

Crews from all over attended the blaze. Picture by Kath Flannery.

Blaze was a ‘sobering’ sight

Communities committee chairwoman, Anne Stirling, thanked the crews who battled the flames in Braemar.

She said: “We are grateful there were no serious injuries – or worse.

“The pictures were quite sobering.”

People who sign up to the retained and volunteer duty system (RVDS) fulfill the same role as full-time colleagues during emergencies.

But this is usually while holding down their own jobs in various other fields.

You can learn more about signing up as a duty or retained firefighter here.

Braemar Lodge Hotel: Community rallies round staff who lost ‘home and livelihood’ in tragic fire

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