Corstorphine fire: Firefighters probe debris

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FIREFIGHTERS were today sifting through the wreckage of a blaze which has ripped the “heart and soul” from a city community.

Work is ongoing to assess the charred wreckage of the Corstorphine Community and Youth Centre with a view to determining whether the historic structure can be saved.

Experts survey the damage to the building. Picture: Neil Hanna

Experts survey the damage to the building. Picture: Neil Hanna

Flames ripped through the building on Tuesday, and about 20 children attending a holiday club were evacuated as smoke began to fill the hall.

In total, 38 community groups have been left homeless, including St John’s 778 Corstorphine Masonic branch which said the extent and value of damage to its former first floor lodge appears “ominous”.

Ceremonial garb and artefacts worth thousands of pounds were stored in the building, including a gold leaf ceiling that was painted by a former member killed during the First World War.

Brother Sean Cairns said: “We’re yet to find out the full extent of the damage as the fire and police are still going over it. We’re fully aware that the ceiling is gone but there are other historic items we hope to recover. We are fully insured, of course, but the value of much of the items isn’t financial but historic.

“We have been offered the use of halls by other lodges throughout the city. Regardless of how long it takes we will one day return to that building.”

It was built in 1892 as Corstorphine Public Hall and philanthropist Andrew ­Carnegie funded a library extension, which was built in 1903. During the Second World War, the building was used by the Ministry of Food to distribute powdered eggs and milk. Nowadays, one half of the building plays host to Elite Fitness Studios which has been gutted, while the other was home to community groups and the masonic lodge.

Corstorphine community groups, such as the 88th Craigalmond Scout Group, have been quick to offer their premises to those displaced by the blaze.

Hall rental co-ordinator Heather Johnston said: “We’d be more than happy to offer a home to any groups. We have a small soft play area and a fully functioning kitchen. It’s a tragic loss and the community needs to pull together.”

City education convener, councillor Paul Godzik said: “We will do whatever we can to help relocate staff and groups who used the centre for a whole range of activities. It is very encouraging to hear that offers of support are coming in from across the local community to offer space in buildings for the many groups who used the centre.”