On Friday 13 October, two semi-detached St Andrews houses caught fire, destroying all of the belongings of four final year university students and their elderly neighbour. Around 4pm, the students living on Drumcarrow Road noticed smoke rising from the neighbouring house, which had caught on fire, spreading through the roof into the students' home. Immediately, the house was evacuated, with the students leaving almost all of their belongings behind.
Whilst the initial cause of this fire is still unknown, the Dundee fire brigade has determined it to have been an accident. All of those involved in the fire were unharmed.
The night of the fire, the students were taken in by another neighbour who provided drinks and clothes and contacted the University for them. The students have since been placed in a David Russell Apartment flat together through the University's student services, where they will remain for the rest of the year.
"This has been a huge relief to be able to maintain living together, especially in light of our joint trauma", said Olivia Frankland, one of the students affected by the event.
"Everyone has been so generous".
The students also noted the overwhelming generosity of the St Andrews community, having received donations of clothing and supplies to help support them throughout this challenging time. In addition to the response from the local community, the University and student services also have continued to provide a great deal of assistance to the students affected on the night of the fire.
The students expressed their appreciation, saying, "We genuinely don't know what we would have done without this support".
The community response extends beyond the physical items being donated. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help replace essential items lost in the blaze, allowing the students to "rebuild their lives". Over £2000 has been donated thus far, with donations received from the St Andrews community, fellow students, and Fife County residents outside of St Andrews. The page gained traction primarily through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, which allowed the students to reach various groups of people.
The accident has raised questions by locals regarding the efficiency of the St Andrews Community Fire Station, whose crew is entirely composed of on-call firefighters alerted by pagers. Fire appliances arrived from Dundee and surrounding fire stations after approximately 30 minutes following the 999 call. At the time of their arrival, the house had already lost structural integrity, leaving the students' belongings destroyed and inaccessible. Those affected by the fire felt helpless.
"It was definitely one of the hardest things for us, not being able to do anything about it," the students noted.
Despite the frustration, the students remain grateful for the effort and time put into extinguishing the fire, stating that the fire brigade “did an amazing job, working on our house for hours". The students were collected by student services at 7pm that night, at which time the fire brigade was still tirelessly working on the fire.
"We're so overwhelmed by the response we have received from St Andrews students and the wider community", Olivia added.
Area Commander Kenny Barbour, Local Senior Officer for Clackmannanshire, Fife, and Stirling, said, “We will always attend every emergency and will always mobilise the nearest available appliance to an incident using our standard mobilisation practices.
“On Friday, 13 October at 3.57pm, we were alerted to reports of a fire affecting a domestic property in Canongate, St Andrews.
“Operations Control immediately mobilised one appliance from Cupar, which arrived on scene at 4.20pm. An appliance from Tayport arrived on scene at 4.29pm.
“There were no reported casualties involved and our crews worked tirelessly to bring this incident to a safe conclusion. We left the scene at 10.23pm.”
The students' GoFundMe page currently stands at around £2300 out of their £2500 goal. Donations are still being accepted with great appreciation, as the money will be used for computers, books, and clothes.
Image: Jack Dalgleish