A man was taken to hospital with burns last night after an “explosion” at a popular pub in the Highland capital.
Witnesses described seeing a member of staff at traditional music venue Hootananny “completely on fire” and rolling on the floor during the incident.
It is understood the man – named by colleagues as bar manager Stuart Skinner – was topping up the fire which heats the Church Street bar with fuel when the blast happened.
Emergency services cordoned-off part of the city centre for more than 90 minutes while an investigation was launched into the cause of the incident.
The building was immediately evacuated and it is understood no one else was injured.
A fire service spokeswoman said half of the ground floor bar area had suffered smoke damage.
Shocked staff sought shelter nearby after their injured colleague was taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
They had been preparing for a change of shift when the horrific incident unfolded just before 5.30pm.
Duty manager Ruairidh Duncan said he had “no idea” what had caused the incident.
He said other staff had been in the bar area when they heard “a loud bang and then a kind of snapping noise” after Mr Skinner left to put fuel on the fire.
Mr Duncan said: “Stuart was just completely on fire. He had thrown himself on the ground trying to put it out.
“We are all still shocked. We just had to react to it but it could have been 10 seconds or a minute, I’ve no idea how long it all went on for.”
Other staff managed to put out the fire before calling an ambulance.
It was not clear last night how serious Mr Skinner’s injuries were.
Mr Duncan added: “It is shocking. You don’t expect to see anything like that, especially not a friend like Stuart.”
The bar was for the night following the incident.
Hootananny owner Kit Fraser was not at the venue at the time and was last night working with emergency services to establish what happened.
He reported that there was “some sort of explosion”.
A police spokesman said: “We were made aware of the incident at 5.21pm and officers have been assisting the fire service.
“I can confirm that one person was injured as a result and has been passed into the care of the ambulance service.
“Part of the street was closed during the incident.”
He added that a full investigation would be carried out, but said initial signs showed that “some form of explosion in the boiler” was the cause.
A spokeswoman for the fire service said that three units from Inverness were called to the incident just after 5.15pm and left the scene at 6.55pm.
She said crews had used breathing apparatus, dry powder and thermal imaging equipment during the incident.
A spokeswoman for the ambulance service confirmed that an injured man was taken to Raigmore.
The bar, which sits at the junction of Fraser Street and Church Street, also acts as a restaurant and live music venue and is one of the busiest in Inverness.
The top floor area of the three-storey building is currently undergoing a major revamp to transform in into a cocktail bar.
A painting and decorating team were working on the top floor but were evacuated safely.