OVER 40 firefighters raced to tackle an early morning blaze - at a fire station in North Berwick.
IT IS probably the last building firefighters would expect to arrive at and find ablaze.
An explosion has gutted North Berwick’s retained fire station, damaging two vehicles and smashing holes through the roof of the building.
A shopkeeper who raised the alarm shortly after 5am, yesterday, said he saw a ball of flames shoot 50 metres above the roof.
The first crew on the scene was from North Berwick. However, all they could do was secure the surrounding area as their equipment was inside.
Five minutes later they were supported by crews from Edinburgh, and by 10am the fire was almost completely extinguished.
One of the building’s three roofs was destroyed, while another was left with two gaping holes, exposing the wooden beams underneath.
Lothian and Borders fire and rescue service said it was too early to establish the cause.
The two engines, which cost about £250,000 each when fully stocked with equipment, were damaged but drivable and have been taken away for further inspection.
Craig McLaren, owner of nearby Scotnews newsagents, raised the alarm.
“I was coming down the road at about 5am when I saw the smoke,” he said.
“At first I thought it was a rubbish fire but then I saw the smoke was coming from the fire station building.”
He added: “At first it was just smoke. Then, out of the middle of the roof, came this big ball of flames about 50 metres high.
“It came all of a sudden with a big whoosh.”
The bedroom window of David and Georgina Bryson, both 78, looks out onto the fire station, which is just 30 yards away.
Mrs Bryson said: “I woke up at 5am and looked out the window, which I usually do, and said to my husband there’s terrible snow.”
But she soon saw the flames and realised what she had thought was snow was actually falling ash.
“It was a shock,” she said. “Fortunately the wind was blowing the other way.”
Mr Bryson added: “I don’t know how it happened. It just went up, and it went up, and up, and up.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The fire damage did not spread from the building to any neighbouring vehicles or homes.
More than a dozen fire engines were parked around the building late morning yesterday, and the surrounding area was taped off.
Jenny Stephenson, who was passing on her way to work at the North Berwick day centre, said: “I always walk to work this way and as I approached I was wondering what was going on.
“You don’t expect to find a fire at the fire station.”
A fire investigation team from Lothian and Borders has started looking into what caused the blaze.
Tom McGrath, group commander with Lothian and Borders, said yesterday: “First thing’s first, no-one is hurt and the public are safe.
“They were instructed to remain indoors, that was the first thing we did.
“We have appointed a fire investigation team, and they will be looking into the cause, but it is too early to say what type of explosion it was.
“We are currently dampening down and checking for hot spots.”
He added: “It’s pretty unusual to be called to a fire in a fire station.
“Certainly it’s one of the more unusual of my career. But these things do occur.
“We got an early call, which is always important, otherwise the damage sustained could have been a lot worse.”
Lothian and Borders fire and rescue service are now looking for an alternative base while the building is repaired.
A spokeswoman said: “The building is insured and insurers will be going out tomorrow.
“The key priority for us is to identify an alternative location. It needs to be a premises that is local to North Berwick and secure.
“From night shift tonight there will be a team from Edinburgh, covering North Berwick, operating out of Gullane fire service college.
“There has been no interruption to fire service delivery.”