A CLACKS rugby club has been left “absolutely gutted” after a fire tore through the property, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the blaze at Hillfoots Rugby Club on Monday, April 25.

Fire crews ensured the flames were brought under control, though considerable damage was done to a large store container and a motorhome parked in the yard of the adjacent Woods Coaches.

Police officers were also on the scene and are currently treating the matter as deliberate.

Peter Norman, club president, said: “It’s really disappointing that this fire has been maliciously started and seriously damaged our storage container and its contents.

“We had a club meeting earlier that evening and have planned a busy summer of activities for all the Hillfoots community using most of the equipment that we had stored in the container.

“We have stands at all of the local village galas, and run the free concert Tilly in the Park as part of Tilly Community Week – fingers crossed that our plans can still go ahead.”

The nature of the container has meant that the heat from the fire, which started at one end, was rapidly spread throughout the whole container and the majority of the contents are beyond reasonable repair or badly damaged by smoke.

Eddie Inglis, the club’s secretary and the chief organiser of Tilly in the Park, said: “All of the equipment that we use to keep everyone safe during Tilly in the Park – like the marquees, fencing and generators for light – were in the container along with a significant amount of rugby training kit.

“We have yet to go through the container in detail to identify if anything can be salvaged, but the damage is likely to be well over £20,000.”

Most pressing is the Forth Valley Viking’s first match of the season which is set to be hosted at the club on Saturday, May 7.

Founded in 2020, and with limited game time last season due to the pandemic, this was to be the dramatic start to the season with the locals taking on a Scottish Barbarian side drawn from across the league.

Kris Illingworth, the driving force behind the Vikings, said: “We’re absolutely gutted that our kit has been damaged in this fire, but thankfully the local rugby community and Hillfoots RFC have stepped in and will ensure that the day will go ahead as planned.

“We hope to be able to salvage our smoke-damaged strips and some of our kit, nevertheless we will still have a great start to our season and would love to see a great turnout for what promises to be a great fun day.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "We were made aware of a fire at a container stored at Hillfoots Rugby Club off Lower Mill Street in Tillicoultry around 10.55pm on Monday, April 25.

"Nobody was injured but the container and its contents were damaged, along with a motor home parked nearby.

"The fire is being treated as deliberate and enquiries are ongoing."

Anyone with information regarding the fire is urged to contact the police by calling 101 and quoting incident number 4137 of April 25.