Police are hunting for the individuals responsible for starting the fire that tore through a community library in Aberdeen.
An as yet unknown number of books were destroyed and the building damaged as flames spread through the Northfield Community Centre shortly after midnight on Tuesday.
The fire is understood to have spread from a wheelie bin that was deliberately set alight and has left those who volunteer at the centre heartbroken.
They undertake significant work on behalf of the community and Northfield chairwoman Jacqui Innes said the damage had been “soul destroying”.
She is hopeful CCTV images can be found that will shed some light on what happened and who was responsible.
In the meantime, she and her colleagues are counting the cost and waiting to see just how bad the damage is.
Mrs Innes said she’d been sleeping when she was woken by a phone call and received the news that the centre was on fire.
Four fire appliances were sent to the scene at 12.02am on Tuesday when a wheelie bin fire spread to the library based inside the community centre.
Mrs Innes said: “I got to the centre and it just broke my heart.
“It is so disheartening when you fight to keep a building open and when it’s run by volunteers and someone goes and does this.
“The centre is there for the community and it’s soul destroying, especially with everything going on with coronavirus at the moment.
“Why would you do something like this?
“Unfortunately the library got the worst of it.
“I just hate seeing books being destroyed and we’re not sure just how many were burned yet.
“Hopefully the CCTV will show something.”
Police are treating the fire as “suspicious” and it is likely the centre will need to remain closed after lockdown ends to enable repairs to be carried out.
The full extent of the damage is not yet know but the library was hit the hardest by the fire.
Ceilings had to be torn down to prevent the fire from spreading to other parts of the centre.
Local councillor Ciaran McRae said: “I’m very disappointed that someone has decided to set fire to what is a very valuable building to the community.
“It is fortunate the fire didn’t spread any further.
“If anyone has any information, I would urge them to get in touch with the police”
His colleague, councillor Gordon Graham, added: “I don’t think people realise the damage they can do when they get up to this sort of mischief.
“I’m disappointed, especially if it was deliberate, as the community centre does so much work to help the community.
“I hope the police catch those responsible.”
A police spokesman said: “Officers were called to the report of a fire at Northfield Library in Byron Square, Aberdeen on Tuesday.
“The fire was extinguished by the fire and rescue service with minor damage being caused to the building.
“The fire is being treated as suspicious and inquiries are underway.”
Anyone who may have been in the area late on Monday night or in the early hours of Tuesday morning and who saw or heard anything suspicious is being asked to call police on 101.
Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.