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‘You could feel the heat’: Couple tell of being forced to flee home as ‘unexplained’ school fire raged

Police say they are treating a massive blaze which engulfed Inverkeithing’s former primary school as “unexplained”.

At its height 40 firefighters battled the inferno at the derelict C-listed building in Roods Road.

No one was injured, but a young woman who suffers from asthma had to be treated in hospital.

Nathalie Black, 24, suffered breathing difficulties as the blaze engulfed the century-old building, just yards away from her home.

Nathalie Black and Jim McDonald.

Her fiance Jim McDonald, 40, described being greeted by a “wall of orange” after opening their front door.

“You could feel the heat,” said Jim.

Fire crews continue to try and control the fire at the former Inverkeithing Primary School.

“The fire took hold in no more than 15 to 20 minutes. It was just a wall of orange.

“The smell was unbelievable. It caught the back of your throat. It was a rancid, acrid taste.”

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The couple, who plan to get married next August, were escorted out of their home wearing breathing masks and relatives took asthmatic Nathalie to hospital.

Fife town at a standstill as school building destroyed by huge blaze

Catherine O’Donnell, 52, who also lives near the old school, said houses and cars were covered with ash and embers as fire crews worked to bring the blaze under control.

The scene of the Inverkeithing fire.
Firefighters at the scene on Tuesday morning after the Inverkeithing school went up in flames.

“I had to brush the path because there was so much ash,” she said.

“It didn’t help that it was really windy.

“I have never, ever, seen a fire like that in my life.”

Fife Jammer Locations posted a photograph of the dramatic blaze on Facebook

She added: “It was a beautiful building, but I think it will be bulldozed now for safety reasons.”

People living in the vicinity were told to keep windows shut as smoke blew across the town.

Helen McManus, 67, said: “There were hot embers all over the place – on cars, everywhere.”

Roads were closed, causing early morning commuter chaos.

Detective Inspector Kelly McEwan thanked the local community for its co-operation over the road closures, some of which remained in place well into Tuesday.

She confirmed the fire, which was reported at 9.20pm on Monday, was being treated as unexplained and said officers were working with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to investigate the full circumstances.

She appealed for anyone who may have seen anything suspicious in the area, both before and after the fire took hold, to contact the police.

At its height up to 40 firefighters and nine fire engines were at the scene.

Crews were still tackling pockets of fire on Tuesday morning.

Senior fire officer Roddie Keith said the incident had been a challenging and protracted one.

The building, which dates back to 1913, was saved from demolition just weeks ago, when Allanwater Developments withdrew an application to have it razed.

Councillors had approved the demolition plans, which would have allowed the company to build 28 homes on the site.

But Scottish Government ministers, who were notified of the listed building consent application because Historic Environment Scotland had formally objected to the plans, said they could not consider the application without a bat survey being submitted.

Fife Council officers have been on site and the owners will be tasked with ensuring it is secure.

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