FIRE investigators fear Christmas tree lights may have started a fatal blaze at a luxury hotel.
Two men died and six people were taken to hospital when a fire tore through Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond on Monday morning.
Yesterday, a source said hotel staff who first raised the alarm had told 999 operators that a 12ft-high decorated tree in the hotel’s main reception area was ablaze.
He said: “The first call to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service came from the hotel reception to report the tree was alight, at 6.40am on Monday morning.
“The 999 call was made by a member of staff.”
The flames are believed to have spread up through the hotel, along cavities between the brick outer walls and wood panelled or plastered interiors.
Another emergency service worker who attended the blaze confirmed the tree had been identified as a potential priority for investigators.
He said the 70 firefighters tackling the blaze were faced with deadly, dense smoke.
He said: “Smoke spread so quickly that fire crew could barely see in front of themselves as they scoured rooms looking for trapped victims.
“Flames had travelled up the void between the outside and inner walls.
“This acted like a chimney to stoke the spread of the fire.”
By noon the floors were caving in and fire crews were ordered to evacuate the building for fear of their own lives.
Temperatures reached 1000C, setting the roof ablaze.
Simon Midgley, 32 a freelance journalist and PR manager, and his partner Richard Dyson, 38, a TV producer, died in the fire.
One of the men is understood to have been found close to a window, after having tried to force his way out.
Attempts were made by paramedics to resuscitate one of the pair on the hotel lawn but they failed to revive him.
Newlyweds Andrew and Louise Logan watched in horror as their baby son, Jimmy, was tucked under the arm of a fireman and carried down a ladder from their third floor bedroom window.
The three of them were rushed to hospital in Glasgow, suffering smoke inhalation, but were later discharged,
Staying in the room directly below the Logans was Matt and Hannah Munns, and their five-year-old son.
Matt, 47, from Leeds, said: “Just after half-six in the morning we were woken by the fire alarm going off.
“I thought it was a test drill then I began to hear shouts and screams.
“My wee boy opened the bedroom door and smoke started coming in and we realised it was for real.
“We grabbed phones, shoes and coats and ran out into the corridor.
“We managed to get to the reception but it was already in flames and we couldn’t get out that way.
“We could see the flames through the double doors.
“It was very frightening because there was a lot of smoke but one of the staff shouted on us to follow them to another way out and it was such a relief to be outside in the fresh air. Then the windows started blowing outwards and we watched the drama as the firemen rescued a baby from the room above ours.
“All the time I was trying to shield everything from my boy.
“He was pretty upset and wanted to go home so later that day we drove back to Leeds.”
A total of 200 guests had to be evacuated from the building.
The fire continued to burn for 24 hours and has left the five-star hotel – a 300-year-old baronial mansion – very badly damaged.
A Fire Scotland spokeswoman said: “The fire at Cameron House Hotel is still under a police and fire investigation. We can’t comment on the cause at this time.”
Cameron House declined to comment.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe