Thousands raised to help family who lost home in bird observatory blaze

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More than £22,200 has been raised to help a family who lost their home and possessions in a fire which destroyed a renowned island bird observatory.

One fire engine went to the scene on Fair Isle after the alarm was raised at 11.45am on Sunday.

Another crew was flown to the scene from Shetland by coastguard helicopter while two crews were taken to the island by boat.

No-one was injured but the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, which also offered accommodation to visitors to the island, was completely destroyed.

The community raised £22,241 in just one day through a GoFundMe page set up to help the family who run the observatory, far exceeding the £2,000 target.

A message on the page states: “On the 10th March 2019 our friends, the Parnaby family, lost their home and life’s possessions in the catastrophic fire that destroyed Fair Isle Bird Observatory.

“We have set up this fund to raise the money required to help them replace the essentials of family life. Everything from clothing, bedding and kitchen utensils to furniture, TV and toys.

“As a community we will be doing our very best to support Susannah, David, Grace and Freya in the months ahead.

“We would very much appreciate your support as well.”

The Fair Isle Bird Observatory said the bird census data collected by the Observatory since 1948 data is digitised and backed up safely, however some irreplaceable items have been lost including hand-written diaries by ornithologist George Waterston.

In a statement the observatory directors said: “Our priority now is to support David and Susannah with a medium-term aim to continue with as much ornithological census and research work as is feasible in the circumstances.

“We are all still in a state of shock but are committed to rebuilding and continuing the important work of the bird observatory.”

They also gave “sincere thanks” to all the fire crews and emergency services who worked “tirelessly” to try and save the building on the island, which is located around halfway between Shetland and Orkney.

RSPB Scotland tweeted: “We are devastated to hear the news of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory, it is a tragedy to lose such a special place.

“We are relieved to hear no one was injured, and we give our heartfelt thanks to the islanders and emergency services who worked so hard to try and tackle the fire.”

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