LIVES would have been lost in the fire which destroyed Bridgehaugh Ltd in South Bridge Street, Selkirk, in the early hours of last Thursday had it not been for a firewall.
That is the view of scaffolding company boss Sandy Pow whose home and yard in Buccleuch Road abutted the blazing plant, which was unoccupied at the time.
Mr Pow told how he and his wife Sheila were alerted shortly before 3am.
“I was woken by someone banging on by door and shouting,” recalled Mr Pow. “I thought it was some yobs, but when I answered I was told to get out because of the fire next door.
“I looked along the dyeworks building and within minutes it was totally engulfed by smoke and flames. It was a total inferno.
“The flames were through the roof, the heat was intense, and there was a great deal of smoke. There were flames everywhere and the whole building was soon ablaze.
“We built a firewall between us and the dyeworks about 10 years ago and that’s what stopped the fire spreading. I have no doubt that it saved lives.”
Daughter Martine lives next door, but was out of town playing in a golf tournament. But three other neighbours from two homes were evacuated as the flames spread.
Former builders’ merchant boss James McCallum of nearby Whinfield Road told us: “I woke just before three o’clock with what sounded like an explosion. It was the kind of noise I used to hear in quarries.
“I heard what I thought was rain, but when I went outside it was debris being blown by the high wind about 400 yards from the dyeworks.
“The large metal building at the riverside end was glowing red and eventually caved in as a result of the flames.
“It was unbelievable how quickly the fire spread – it was very fast, blazing from end to end and there was a lot of very acrid smoke.”
A strong wind blowing down the Ettrick Water helped to fan the flames and spread the smoke.
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service told us: “Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus fought the blaze from outside the property due to concerns about the internal safety of the structure.
“At around 4am the roof collapsed and internal walls gave way due to the ferocity of the fire, which was not declared under control until 7am.”
Some 50 firefighters – from across the Borders, the Lothians and Edinburgh – tackled the blaze, the brigade later liaising with Scottish Borders Council and the Scottish Envirnement Protection Agency over potential impacts from chemicals stored in the building and the volume of water used to fight the fire, so close to the river.
Ambulance crews stood by during firefighting operations and police put a cordon around the immediate area.