Fair Isle Bird Observatory destroyed by fire


Fair Isle Bird Observatory has been razed to the ground following a catastrophic fire that tore through the building on Sunday [10 March].

No one was injured in the blaze, including warden David Parnaby, his wife Susannah and their family, but the damage was so extensive that, ultimately, the entire building is reported to have collapsed in on itself.

The fire was initially reported at around 11:30 on Sunday morning, with firefighters making their way to the scene. Further fire crews subsequently arrived via both helicopter and boat from the Shetland mainland, with at least one crew still on site on Monday morning. It is understood that the fire started in the roof.

Fair Isle Bird Observatory is world famous in birding and beyond, having initially been established to study bird migration on the island in 1948 but subsequently having become just as important for its ongoing seabird monitoring studies. While the extent of the damage is not yet fully known, it is understood that all gear, historic archives and staff's personal belongings have been lost.

The current observatory building, which cost £4 million to construct, opened in 2010. As well as its importance as a centre for science it plays a vital role in Fair Isle's economy, attracting large numbers of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to stay in spring, summer and autumn. With the Observatory still closed for the winter season, there were no guests staying when the blaze broke out.

Roy Dennis, President of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust, commented: "Absolutely tragic news – our famous Fair Isle Bird Observatory has been lost to fire. Thank goodness no loss of life but heartfelt sympathy to David, Susannah and family and the islanders. We will rebuild. We have lost much and will lose a year. Close to my heart – very, very sad."

UPDATE 13 March: A crowdfunder has been set up to raise money for the Parnaby family, who lost all personal belongings in the fire. If you wish to contribute to this, you can do so here. If you'd like to make a donation to Fair Isle Bird Observatory, please visit www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk/donations.