Workers from the Moorfield Hotel have spoken of their devastation over the building’s destruction following Monday’s early morning blaze.
Nearby residents have been coming to terms with the disaster which unfolded during the night hours on their doorsteps.
One worker has described hearing a night porter running through the corridor of the building’s second floor ordering people to evacuate.
Junior sous chef Scott Arbuckle lost all his belongings in the fire.
“The fire alarm went off at around half twelve at night – all my sentimental things, money I’d saved up – absolutely everything is wiped out. I’m absolutely gutted.”
The 31 year-old added: “I was on the top floor where the fire had started. Just as I was approaching my bedroom door I could hear the night porter running up and down shouting to please evacuate.”
Mr Arbuckle described watching a firefighter running down the stairs of the building following an initial inspection.
“We were just watching them working and getting prepared, and we were thinking ‘this is real now.’
“As we looked up to the centre of the Moorfield, that’s when flames started bursting out of the roof. We saw big, blue flames.”
He said staff were eventually taken by bus to to stay at Sella Ness – the very accommodation which has been at the centre of controversy over the Moorfield’s closure.
As well as having lost his belongings inside the building, Mr Arbuckle also fears he may well have lost his car – parked, as it was, outside the back of the building.
“We’ve not been allowed near it because of the thickness of the smoke,” he said. “I’m not holding out any hope.”
“Everything I own has gone. I’ve not got a job any more -all my documents, my flash drive, I’m having to restart everything. It’s bad, bad times.”
Sous chef Steven Mcdonnell said staff initially hoped it would be something minor.
“For the first few minutes we were thinking ‘maybe somebody’s burnt the toast'”, the 37 year-old said.
But he said it soon became clear the fire was much, much more serious.
“We were seeing flames from a window in the second floor. Things were getting hotter and hotter.”
He also said blue flames began to appear, a sign – he added – that gas cylinders were catching fire inside the building.
“We were escorted to an ambulance area, and the locals came out and started giving us blankets. Two buses pulled up and we were sent to Sella Ness, which was a bit of a bitter pill.”
Nearby resident Georgia Smith, who lives around 100 yards from the scene, said signs first emerged of something wrong when her house began losing water pressure.
“My dad woke up and looked out the window,” she said. “I heard, ‘the hotel’s on fire’. I looked out and saw a giant ball of fire. The whole roof was ablaze.
“There were a lot of people down there. We watched as the workers all came out and went on the coaches and got shipped to Sella Ness.”
Like many residents, Ms Smith was left shocked by the incident – not least because it took place almost exactly a year after an explosion ripped through a house in the area, resulting in the death of Peggy Griffiths.
Alison Smith lives in Ockragarth, where that incident took place.
“It’s a year on Thursday since Peggy’s house exploded and the poor woman passed away,” the 55 year-old said.
Friend Maria Wishart of Lingapund added: “We could hear the firefighters and the smoke was going right across the voe. We could hear the pops and the cracks.”
Another resident, who did not wish to be named, added she first became aware something was up when she heard crackling voices coming over on the radios used by firefighters who had arrived at the scene.
“I woke up to the sound of walkie-talkies,” she said.
“It’s almost a year to the day since that house explosion and now the Moorfield has gone. It’s not the best of luck.”