Braemar Lodge: Eyewitness describes moment explosion destroys popular Deeside hotel
A major fire broke out at Braemar Lodge Hotel, Braemar around 7:30am on Wednesday.
Seven guests, two members of staff and the owner were in the building at the time, but all managed to leave the property uninjured.
Councillor Geva Blackett was in bed when her husband alerted her to smoke rising from the hotel, which is two doors away from her property, and told her to get out the house.
She left in her nightclothes, with the whole building destroyed within moments of her getting out onto the street.
Cllr Blackett, an independent member of Aberdeenshire Council, said: “I’m quite shaken to be honest. My husband got me out of the house and by the time I got outside, it was just unbelievable, extraordinary. The whole place just went ‘whoosh’.
"There was just smoke and flames everywhere. I walked down the alley way by the house and then the hotel just exploded.
“There were bits of granite flying. I was standing around 200 yards away. It was unreal, unbelievable – the whole hotel has gone.
“It’s just absolutely shocking. What is also incredible is that no-one appears to have been hurt. Thank God for our fire crews."
Fire crews had to pump water out of the nearby Clunie Water, with six crews sent to the scene. A number of firefighters are understood to have travelled from Blairgowrie.
The A93 through the village was closed on Wednesday, with a number of people evacuated from their homes and taking refuge in the Fife Arms Hotel.
Primary pupils at Braemar School, which is close to the hotel, were kept at home for the day.
A new owner has recently taken over the hotel with a significant refurbishment of the property ongoing. It is understood the manager at the hotel does not sleep on site.
"It is an iconic hotel, it faces right onto the main road and it is always busy, it’s a popular place,” Cllr Blackett added.
Those affected by the fire headed to the nearby Fife Arms Hotel, where members of staff phoned the fire brigade after spotting smoke.
One resident said: “There is a fairly sombre mood in the village. It’s a building that meant a lot to people and they feel pretty heartbroken. People feel bad for the owners and those who worked there. Braemar is a pretty small place and something like this hits close.”
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 7:37am on Wednesday, March 16 to reports of a shed on fire at Glenshee Road, Braemar, Ballater.
“Operations Control mobilised six fire appliances, one height vehicle and one water carrier to the scene where the fire is affecting a nearby commercial building.
“Firefighters are currently still at the scene and there are no reported casualties at this time.”
Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire, tweeted: “Shocked to hear of an explosion at Braemar Lodge this morning. Massive thanks to @fire_scot and @Scotambservice who are on scene and thoughts with everyone affected.”
Smoke from the blaze could be seen from miles away.
No-one was injured during the fire, police said.
This is a breaking story, more updates follow.
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