Glasgow School of Art fire: Salvage operation for precious artworks continues

The world-famous art school caught fire on Friday afternoon

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The Independent Online

A salvage operation has been conducted throughout the night by fire crews desperately working to “save everything that can be saved” at the Glasgow School of Art.

The world-famous art school was saved from “total destruction” after flames engulfed the Charles Rennie Makintosh building on Friday – but precious artwork was destroyed in the blaze.

Firefighters who were at the scene within four minutes of receiving the first emergency control brought the flames under control and said more than 90 per cent of the structure was “viable”.

Indications suggest they were able to save up to 70 per cent of the contents, according to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

It it is not known which artworks - including those of students - have been saved and salvage work is ongoing.

  The fire started during a busy time as students prepared for their end-of-degree show but everybody was said to have been evacuated from the building safely.

Flames could be seen through the scorched windows and billowing out of the roof of the sandstone building on the corner of the city's Renfrew Street and Scott Street as the fire took hold at around 12.30pm.

Large crowds gathered near the scene as multiple fire crews tackled the blaze, with several people crying as they watched the events unfold.

Broadcaster Muriel Gray, a former student and current chairwoman of the school, was among those who burst into tears when she saw the building in flames. She called it “an absolutely devastating day” for the institution.

Fire brigade assistant chief officer Dave Boyle said crews worked "absolutely flat out" in an effort to save "this treasured building and many of the items it housed".

The Glasgow School of Art – designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

He said: "While the priority from the outset was to save life we have also been working closely with GSA staff to ensure firefighters conducted an effective salvage operation.

"We are of course very conscious the Mackintosh is a world renowned building that is a key feature of this great city, and that the artworks it stores are not only valuable but also cherished.

"We are acutely aware this period is the culmination of years of endeavour for students and that their irreplaceable work is inside the Mackintosh.

“Work to save everything that can be saved is ongoing and we will continue to work closely with GSA staff and students throughout this operation.”

A GSA spokeswoman added: “We would like to express our very sincere thanks to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for their tremendous efforts throughout today.”

They later added on Twitter: “A massive thank you to scotfire-west for your courage, strength and audacity today GSofA.”

Earlier, chief officer Alasdair Hay, of the fire service, described the approach to tackling the fire.

He said: “We regularly attend significant fires but the iconic status of this building is not lost on us.

"Part of our operation is to try and salvage what we can and we worked with colleagues from the school who identified objects of significance that they would like us, if possible, to save.

“They described the objects and their location and we briefed officers and firefighters where they could, did the salvage if it was safe to do so.”

He added: “There are structural engineers here and we are working with them to save as much of the fabric as we possibly can.”

The institution is one of Europe's leading art schools, while the listed Mackintosh-designed building is a tourist attraction in its own right and one of Scotland's most “iconic” structures.

Work started on the building in 1897, taking 10 years to complete. More than a century later, it still operates as a working building serving hundreds of students.

Additional reporting by Press Association