Monday, 10 February, 2020 marked the one year anniversary since the Biomedical sciences building was engulfed in flames.The fire, declared an accident by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service the following Monday, started around 4:30pm in Room 305. The flames soon grew, spanning three floors and raging for three hours. Due to the diligence of the thirty fire crew, arriving a mere seven minutes after the alarm was raised, the fire was extinguished by 8pm.
One year on, as the BMS building remains closed off. The quick evacuation of all those within and the team made up of staff from all around the departments in the University meant that no one within or in the surrounding area sustained any injuries. There was an initial worry about the dangerous chemicals being released in the fire and reports claim that those in the town could smell chemicals. The emergency services announced the following morning that there was no threat of inhaling the chemicals from the fire. As a precaution, the students living nearby were asked not to linger around the site and to close their windows.
While no one was harmed, the same cannot be said for the decades worth of research of the staff and post-graduates. Copious amounts of work was lost as research was kept in large freezers which began to defrost when power was cut (to reduce risk of electrocution) to the BMS Building.
The University described the BMS Building as a well-known,“centre of excellence addressing issues such antibiotic resistance and infectious disease.” Labs within the BMS building were focused on “organic and synthetic chemistry, virology, micro-biology and biochemistry,” doing especially important work in infectious diseases.
Indeed, as news of the fire spread, the University received messages of consolation from the Royal Society of Chemistry and Stephen Gethins, MP for North East Fife at the time. A testament to the damage done by the fire and to the vast amount of water afterwards is that one year on the BMS Building still remains closed.
Meanwhile, students and staff have been working as hard as before in a temporary facility built by Portakabin, to ensure their important work continues. Named the Willie Russell Laboratory, after a professor of virology in St Andrews, the University state that staff and students are working in “state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities”. The professor was instrumental in establishing the University’s virology unit which will continue within the new complex.The Willie Russell Laboratories were officially opened late last year by the Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone. The new facility is “fully operational and proving popular with students”, while the students and staff wait for the BMS building to reopen.