A five score-year-old building, Gorton Castle, housing the offices of Principal Accountant General-Audit and Accountant General-Accounts and Entitlement of Himachal Pradesh was gutted in the early hours on Tuesday. Massive loss has been reported from the historic grey stone and rosewood building that was also having teak wood interiors and was surrounded by majestic deodar trees. No loss of life has been reported although some watchmen were sleeping in the building when the fire broke out. Electric short circuit on the top floor with wooden flooring is believed to be the reason for fire, said some employees working in the office. The civil and army fire tenders had a tough time controlling the fire which was visible from a long distance.
The majority of the CAG records were destroyed, said some insiders. About 65 rooms of the 125 rooms have been gutted in the four-storey building. The computers and manual records retrieved from the ground and first floors are piled up outside the office and have been placed under SDM security, said the officials.
The building located near the Himachal Vidhan Sabha was the seat of the Central Secretariat of the British Government till 1942. The office of the Accountant General of India was shifted to the premises in 1954. The structure built with stone and timber was completed in 1904 under the command of Major H.F. Chesney at a cost of Rs 14.02 lakh. But massive renovations spending more than a crore were done to the building in the year 2004. A first day cover and stamp were also released by the Postal Department to mark the centenary in the same year.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who also visited the spot has ordered a probe into the burning of this century old heritage building. Expressing shock he said how such an incident can occur at highly watched and guarded premises in the centre of the town.
Principal Accountant General Satish Loomba also said that a probe would be conducted to find out the reason for fire in the top floors of Gorton Castle. He said the fire might have broken out around 3 am in the morning when the in house employees were busy refuelling diesel in the central heating system of the office. He said his own office chamber along with expensive and antique furniture; documents and records in the top two floors have been burnt in the devastating fire.