More than 100 workers have woken up to an uncertain future this week after a fire devastated Peterhead’s Northbay Pelagic Ltd on the town’s Kirk Street.
More than 60 firefighters battled for more than ten hours to bring the blaze under control after it ripped through the former Crosse & Blackwell building.
Plumes of smoke several hundreds of feet high and miles from the fire could be seen as far away as Aberdeen.
The fire broke out at around 3pm on Saturday and fire crews were on the scene within minues, while firefighters with oxygen m asks entered the building to battle the blaze. However, the crews were pulled out of the building as the fire took a greater hold.
No-one is understood to have been working inside the factory at the time of the fire, while staff from the adjacent office block evacuated the main building.
Charlotte Street, Erroll Street and Kirk Street were cordoned off by police as hundreds of folk gathered to witness the scene.
The town’s South Road saw tailbacks of traffic as locals attempted to get a better view of the fire, while cars were also parked up alongside the former prison site as folk tried to capture the scene on camera and video.
Acrid smoke and ash was carried across the centre of the town as folk were told to stay away from the scene.
As the fire spread in reached the adjacent office block and witnesses reported hearing loud bangs coming from within the building.
Firefighters continued their battle throughout the night and eventually managed to bring the blaze under control. However, the scene on Sunday morning was one of total devastation, with the building completely gutted and only a burnt-out shell remaining.
Commenting on the incident, Scottish Fire and Rescue group manager David Meldrum said his teams had been faced with a “well-developed fire” in the factory’s storage area.
He said the crews had done well to contain the fire to the factory but added there had been extensive damage to the building.
As the clean-up operation got underway, the factory’s director, Chris Anderson, was liaising with fire and police chiefs, but he declined to comment on the incident.
The focus has now turned to what can be done to help those workers who have lost their livelihoods.
Facebook was flooded with suggestions of creating an appeal fund for the workers - something which has received the backing of many locals.
The town’s HotSpot, located adjacent to the factory, had been suggested as a focal point for the appeal.
Staff said while they could not launch an appeal on their own, they may do so along with partners.
“We are going to be working with partners to see what assistance we can offer to the families of those affected by the fire,” said Hotspot senior comminity learning worker, Margo Paterson.
They also said they would be holding an employability and welfare drop-in this Thursday morning (January 22), from 9am to 1pm at the Hotspot in a bid to help those affected by the blaze.
It has now been suggested that one of the local churches could possibly accept appeal money for distribution to those affected.
Alex Geddes, chair of Buchanhaven Heritage Centre, told the Buchanie that while he was more than happy to set up a donations page, he would need a host link to accept and distribute any income.
“Buchanhaven Heritage Centre would have been happy to do this, but we are not really set up full-time yet and would really need a focal point for people to come and get a share of any monies raised,” he said.
“I think people just want to do as much as they can to help the workers at the factory who have now lost their income,” he added.
Meanwhile, Banff and Buchan MP Elidh Whiteford praise the work of the fire and rescue services in bringing the blaze under control so quickly.
“Once again they are owed a huge debt of gratitude for their professionalism and bravery,” she said.
“Thankfully Police Scotland reported no casualties but there has been considerable disruption to the town.
“This will be a very uncertain time for the workforce. Once the extent of the damage is known - and investigators will start the process - we will be in a better position to assess what kind of assistance might be required.”
The Scottish Government’s rural affairs Secretary, Richard Lochhead, added:
“Northbay Pelagic is one of the largest fish factories in Scotland and a major employer in Peterhead.
“As we start the new mackerel season the Scottish Government stands ready assist in the aftermath of this fire in any way we can.
“We are asking public agencies to work with the local authority and the business to see what support can be offered as a matter of urgency.”