Angry firefighters have claimed they were left without vital equipment to tackle the blaze at the former Station Hotel in Ayr.

As revealed by Ayrshire Weekly Press three weeks ago, Ayr's high reach appliance - one of only two in Ayrshire - was removed a few weeks ago.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union claim the loss of the appliance hampered the bid to save the hotel - which was just a minute's drive from Ayr's community fire station.

The crew in Ayr were forced to wait 20 minutes for fellow firefighters from Kilmarnock to arrive at the scene with high reach equipment - as flames took hold of the roof of the iconic building.

But the Kilmarnock fire engine broke down at the scene, with the nearest appliance all the way in Castlemilk, Glasgow.

Read more: Live updates as fire burns on at Station Hotel building in Ayr 

Ayr FBU branch secretary Kerr McCrone told the Advertiser: "The Station Hotel was one of Ayr’s biggest fire risks. It was a big, unsafe empty building beside a busy train station and a petrol station in the town centre.

"The people of Ayr will be rightly furious that this iconic building was left to rot for so long and that the fire service has been cut to such an extent that a vital high reach appliance was removed from Ayr fire station, just a minute away from the site of this fire, just a month or so ago.

"High reach appliances are an integral part of an incident commander's firefighting strategy - the consequences of this fire are bad enough but had this been an occupied building then the situation could have resulted in the loss of life."

Senior Scots FBU officials hit out at Ayr MSP Siobhian Brown, Scotland's community safety minister, for "endangering the lives of firefighters and the communities they serve".

Colin Brown, Scottish Executive Council member of the FBU, said: "The fire at the Station Hotel Ayr is the latest example of the madness of the cuts being imposed on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

"At a time when fire appliances and high reach vehicles have been withdrawn this huge fire meant that fire appliances were called from across the South and West of Scotland leaving communities behind with little or no cover should another incident have occurred at the same time.

"Surely, with this incident Siobhian Brown can see that the cuts she is overseeing are endangering the lives of firefighters and the communities they serve.

"She now has all the evidence she needs to go back to the Finance Secretary and demand a greater share of the budget to put an end to the decade of irresponsible cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service."

Area Commander Ian McMeekin, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's local senior officer for East, North and South Ayrshire, said today: "We were alerted at 5.37pm on Monday, 25 September to reports of a fire within the Station Hotel, Ayr. We still have a number of firefighters on scene at present as they work to extinguish the fire.

"No casualties have been reported."

LSO McMeekin added: "High reach vehicles are national assets which can be strategically deployed to incidents across the country.

"As a national service, our highly trained Operations Control staff have the flexibility to mobilise the most appropriate fire appliance to any incident."

"As a national service, our highly trained operations control staff have the flexibility to mobilise the closest and most appropriate fire appliance to any incident."

Ayr MSP and Minister for Victims and Community Safety Siobhan Brown said: "I have received an assurance from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service that the deployment of the high reach appliance did not impact the outcome of this incident, which took place in a derelict building with no life risk.

“I understand three people have now been arrested in connection with the incident.”