A devastating fire swept through the British-era Gorton Castle, which houses the office of the Accountant General of Himachal Pradesh, in the wee hours of Tuesday, reducing two floors of the magnificent heritage building to ashes.
The fire started in the five-storey building around 3am and fire brigade was informed at 3:35 am. About a dozen fire tenders from Shimla, Theog and Solan besides those from the Army were rushed to the spot.
Within minutes the entire building, a magnificent specimen of imperial architecture, was engulfed in sky-high flames which could be witnessed from all parts of the town, fire brigade officials said.
The firemen fought the flames for about five hours and finally the fire was brought under control around 10:30 am.
Crores of rupees had been spent on renovation of this heritage building which was built in 1904. Renovation work was on when the fire broke out in the building this morning.
Dinesh Malhotra, Deputy Commissioner, Shimla, who supervised the fire fighting operation, said that two floors of the five-storey building were completely gutted and office records, computers, furniture and other articles were destroyed or damaged in the fire.
The cause of fire was not known and exact loss was yet to be ascertained.
The office of Accountant General of India was located in this building till the late fifties when the central government office started shifting to Delhi. The AG's office of Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh continued to function from here till early eighties but presently it was exclusive housing the office of the AG of Himachal Pradesh.
Deriving its name from the former estate upon which it was built, this was the Government of India Secretariat Building from where the affairs of this vast country were administered during the summer months in the colonial times.