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Parents and friends connected with a Fort William nursery are rallying in support of the pre-school facility after its outdoor learning huts were completely destroyed by a fire at the weekend.
Staff at Stramash outdoor nursery, near Inverlochy, were left ‘shocked’ and ‘shaken up’ when two of its hand-built wooden yurts, used by toddlers to learn and play, were razed to the ground on Sunday night.
Fire fighters battled the blaze in two installments over 12 hours as flames engulfed the buildings, reducing the large wooden structures to ash.
News of the fire was met with an outpouring of support this week as dozens of concerned parents and residents involved with the nursery responded to the nursery’s plea for volunteers to help clear the wreckage at a clean-up day this Saturday (January 26).
Not only that, but a JustGiving fundraising campaign page has also been set up for those who wish to donate money to help with the cost of rebuilding the outdoor facility.
Temporary measures are now being put in place to ensure the safety of the 68 children, aged two to five, who attend the nursery.
Having spent the best part of five years designing, funding and building the wooden yurts, nursery team leader Cameron Sprague said he was ‘devastated’ to find the buildings in flames after responding to a phone call from the fire service at midnight on Sunday.
Mr Sprague said the fire is ‘a real kick in the teeth’, especially as he was preparing to host a grand opening of the new buildings next month.
‘I’m devastated. But we’ll get through this and be better off after it,’ he said.
Two fire crews tackled the fire at the nursery’s premises at the former BA social club near Inverlochy on Sunday night after being called to the scene at around 11.30pm. Firefighters went back the following morning to continue dampening down hotspots as the fire had partially reignited. The fire was eventually extinguished at 11.30am on Monday morning.
This comes after a difficult 18 months for the early years nursery, which has been targeted by vandals on numerous occasions. In two separate incidents last year, the wooden yurts were broken into and ransacked, while tools and equipment were also stolen from the nursery’s shed.
However, Mr Sprague is treating this latest incident as an ‘act of God’ and said it is almost impossible to determine what caused the fire, due to the extent of the damage.
‘We’ll never know, I think. What I’m focusing on is that no one got hurt and everyone is okay. A building is just a building and can be replaced.’
Mr Sprague said that he is ‘really grateful’ for the support from the community.
‘We had parents show up and phoning us upset and distraught. It’s amazing to have the nursery community that we have and to have people come and check on us and give messages of support.
‘This place is special and I love it. We’re lucky to have the team and parents we have, and the children all love the space. Hopefully we can rebuild it bigger and better than ever.’
Determined not let the damage affect the nursery’s operations, the children were taken to another local woodland site by Stramash staff on Tuesday while risk assessments were carried out at their base.
In a public statement, the wider Stramash team, which also runs outdoor nurseries in Oban, Elgin and Tornagrain, thanked the ‘wonderful work’ of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and said they are ‘overwhelmed’ by the support offered by the local community.
‘We are so grateful for Cameron and our Fort William team for their resilience and dedication as they continue to work tirelessly in the best interests of our children and families.’
If you wish to help the Stramash team, the clean-up day starts at 10am this Saturday at its premises at the former BA social club, near Inverlochy.
For more information on how to help support Stramash or donate to their fundraising campaign, visit stramash.org.uk
Photographs: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos.
Stramash team leader Cameron Sprague stands amid the burnt remains of the outdoor learning huts. NO F04 Stramash Fire 01
The hot water tank and boiler were the only things left standing in the burned wreckage of the yurts. NO F04 Stramash Fire 02
The wooden yurts at Stramash outdoor nursery took five years to design, fund and build. NO F04 Stramash Fire 03