‘Business will be back despite fire’

The former portable building used as offices for David Connor

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A local businessman whose offices were gutted by a fierce blaze at Oban Livestock Centre on Sunday has vowed his company will carry on.

Fire broke out in mid-afternoon at the site off the Upper Soroba – sending plumes of black, acrid smoke billowing across the sky.

Flames destroyed a large industrial unit let by John MacAlister (Oban) Ltd, a local fishing vessel owner and agent, which provides marine services.

Sunday’s blaze also ruined a neighbouring portable building used as offices by David Connor, a haulage and transport handling contractor, who has been on the site since 2012.

At the burned-out scene this week, Mr Connor confirmed that the business, started 25 years ago, saw no vehicles damaged and said it would remain open.

But he added: ‘I have lost my offices. I don’t have a computer and everything was on paper. All of my invoices, my diaries, all my work I’ve got on – my banking – gone. The firemen tried their best.’

Mr Connor had managed to keep his business ticking over during COVID-19, and said that, despite the setback, his customers all knew and supported him.

The most important thing, he said, was that no-one was injured.

At the MacAlister company offices at the South Pier this week, both Mr MacAlister and fellow director Ian Fletcher declined to comment.

A water hydrant located at the side of the A816 – some distance from the seat of the blaze – was seen in use on the day.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service issued a statement by Andrew Watt, a local senior officer for the Scottish Fire and Rescue in Argyll and Bute.

It said: ‘We were alerted at 3.47pm on Sunday June 7 to reports of a fire at a livestock market in Oban, Argyll and Bute. Operations control mobilised a number of resources to the scene to extinguish the fire.

‘Crews were able to locate the nearest water supply and had sufficient resources to bring this incident to a safe conclusion. Two cylinders were located and removed from the building in the initial stages of the incident.

‘Crews employed external firefighting tactics, outside the building, due to concerns over the integrity of the roof structure. They left after making the area safe.’

Asked what caused the fire, it said initial indications suggested it was accidental.

At its peak, up to 30 firefighters were in attendance as they tackled clouds of black and grey smoke with fierce flames visible.

Crews from Oban were also backed up by engines from outlying stations at Dalmally, Appin, Inveraray and Lochgilphead.

Donald Morrison, regional managing director for United Auctions, confirmed that no damage was caused to the livestock centre.

Businesses on site opened on Monday with social distancing in place.

Andrew Spence, of the business group BID4Oban, said: ‘We’re really sorry to hear about the fire and if there’s absolutely anything at all we can do to help, we are more than willing to do so.’

Police officers were in attendance on Sunday and a spokesperson for Police Scotland said the fire was not being treated as suspicious.