Fire destroys former Wellbrae Primary

Wellbrae Primary School at 12 pm today.
Wellbrae Primary School at 12 pm today.

A major fire has completely destroyed the former Wellbrae Primary School in Forfar.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service received the call out shortly before 7 pm last night.

Residents of Bell Place were evacuated, over 50 fire-fighters from Forfar, Kirriemuir, Brechin and Dundee’s Blackness Road, Kingsway and Macalpine Road stations were battling the blaze which could be seen for miles around.

Police cordons were promptly thrown up around the area, with road blocks at North Street, Victoria Road and Queen Street.

On-lookers quickly gathered as nearby residents took to Facebook to alert the town that the former North School and latterly Wellbrae Primary School was ablaze.

Station manager Ewan Baird of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, the operations commander at the scene told us last night: “The Police have been a fantastic assistance. They established a cordon and made a safe route. They carried out an evacuation of residents. The Scottish Ambulance Service was standing by.

“The fire is contained to the main school building. Fortunately there were not any issues with wind which was a huge benefit to us.

“The Forfar Community Church at the rear of the building is 100 per cent fine and will be used for welfare arrangements for the multi-agencies involved.”

The Greens Car park was turned into a command centre for the ambulance and fire and rescue services and by 9pm the roof of the building had collapsed.

Police officers stood guard on roads leading to Wellbraehead and Victoria Road which straddle the building.

The glow from the flames lit up the night sky and a pall of smoke hung over the town centre.

Forfar residents quickly took to social media with many posting images of various stages of the fire.

This morning they woke to find the building a shell, with the blackened exterior walls allowing glimpses through to the inside where the assembly hall was located.

Those who gathered to view the remains of the building stood in silence, with many reminiscing about their school days at the North and Wellbrae primaries.

One former teacher said: “It is so sad. I have so many happy memories of teaching at the school. I always thought it would make an ideal retirement home.”

Another Forfar resident looked on and reflected how four generations of her family had been educated at the school.

Those at the school gates this morning looked on in solemn silence whilst others took to Facebook to relive their memories of Wellbrae.

The 135-year-old C-listed building has lain empty for eight years since being closed by Angus Council as part of the Forfar schools programme.

There were plans to convert it into housing with the former dining hall now used as the Forfar Community Church.

Wellbrae and Chapelpark Primary - the latter which is currently being converted into housing - were replaced by Whitehills Primary School.

Last night’s fire was Forfar’s most dramatic blaze since the Regal cinema in East High Street was destroyed in 1987.

It also sparked memories of a similar fire at the former Webster’s Seminary in Kirriemuir - then known as Southmuir Primary, which was destroyed by fire in 2006.

This afternoon a Police Scotland spokesman confirmed further inquiries into the incident were ongoing and that a full statement would be issued tomorrow morning.