STUDENTS ­returned to the Glasgow School of Art with mixed emotions yesterday as the campus opened for the first time since fire tore through the historic building.

Hundreds of ­students gathered to say their goodbyes to "the bravest people in Glasgow" as fire crews left the site in ­Renfrew Street.

They cheered and applauded the 11 fire fighters who worked tirelessly to save the Mackintosh building, and its contents, ­following last Friday's blaze.

The teams then packed into two ­engines, sounded their sirens and left as they waved and shouted "thank you" from the street.

The school's director, Professor Tom Inns said: "We thank the crew who were first here on the scene last week, and who were the bravest ­people in Glasgow.

"We have to thank them on behalf of the staff at the Glasgow School of Art and on behalf of Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well.

"Thank you for ­being here all week, it has been reassuring and helping us get ­everything out of the building. It has been a great honour and it has been amazing to work with you in the past week."

Author and broadcaster Muriel Gray was also in attendance and applauded the crews as they left the site.

Sam De Santis, the president of the school's students association, said: " Given what we saw just seven days ago, the fact that we've had this event and to be so close to the Mack, to actually be able to take photographs on the steps, is remarkable.

"It's the work of those crews who first came on site, they went above and beyond and I can't stress enough the amount of work they did that they didn't need to do.

"They were pulling students' work out of studios while fighting the fire and they helped to make sure everyone was safe.

"It was something incredible."

Mr De Santis added it was a "relief" to get back on to the campus and said: "There have been hundreds of staff volunteering, removing students' work and organising all kinds of things, since Friday.

"This moment was something and it gives us a nice trajectory."

Earlier in the day, work began on securing a section of the building which had been badly damaged in the blaze.

The Western gable wall was left practically free-standing ­after the roof was ­destroyed and specialists moved in to secure the area and remove the stones, which will be conserved at Historic Scotland's Glasgow Cathedral Depot

Experts used plans created by the school's digital design studio to carefully number each stone before removing it.

An announcement is expected to be made on Monday confirming which departments are to be involved in this year's degree show, scheduled to start on June 12.