Neighbours tried to rescue tragic woman from burning flat

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By Kirsty Topping

A BRAVE neighbour told how he desperately tried to rescue a woman who died after a fire at her home on Sunday night.

The 45-year-old, named by police as Julie Fergus, suffered serious burns in the “severe” blaze, which broke out at around 5pm at the flat in Granton, Edinburgh.

She was pulled from the property by fire fighters but died a short time later at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

John Milligan, 32, said he had initially thought the smoke was coming from a barbecue but soon realised the situation was more serious.

He said: “I was supposed to be going out to my brother’s barbecue and I was just sitting facing the window and I thought with it being a nice day someone was having a barbecue.

“So when I saw the light smoke I didn’t think it was a house fire.

“I went out to be nosey but when I opened the stair door I realised the truth, that it was more than I had expected, all the windows had been melted.”

Mr Milligan and his family had only moved into the building in the last two weeks.

He made sure his partner and child were out of the building before he was alerted to the possibility that someone was in the burning flat.

He continued: “There was a girl came along that knows her and she said the woman was in the house for sure and that’s the reason we went up.

“There was another boy just coming over at the time and we went upstairs to try and kick the door in but the door just wouldn’t go, it was tight, it just wasn’t going at all.

“One of us was holding the handle down whilst the other one was kicking at the Yale because we assumed it was just the Yale that was on.

“The black smoke was coming out and we just couldn’t do anything, we were defeated.

“We tried our best. There was a woman up the stairs, she was pregnant and she was going back up the stairs. I told her to come down because the smoke was going up.

“I don’t know what was behind the door but it just wouldn’t go, it was trying at the bottom but the top just wouldn’t go.
“We could hear crackling, the smoke was more than enough to tell you it had gone too far and you couldn’t get in.

“Once we heard the fire engines we came back down.”

More than 15 fire fighters were on scene to tackle the blaze after breaking down the door to the two-bedroom flat.

They also had to force their way into five other neighbouring properties to make sure the flames had not spread.

Neighbours said the woman was taken to a waiting ambulance and looked “quite bad” and they described her burns as being “on the whole body”.

Mr Milligan added that his neighbour had been a “friendly” woman.

A spokeswoman from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue service said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.

Initial reports suggested the woman may have been drinking and smoking materials were found in the flat.

No-one else was injured in the fire.

The other man involved in the daring rescue attempt did not wish to be named, but claimed it was not the first time he had come to the woman’s aid.

He said that despite having being burned in a fire before, he did not think twice about trying to save Ms Fergus.

He said: “It’s not the first time I’ve dragged her out of a fire and if I could have got in I would have done it again.”

Today (Monday) a woman emerged from the burnt flat with a black cat, believed to belong to Ms Fergus, in her arms.

It is believed the cat had been hiding in the building during the blaze.

Some people began laying floral tributes at the gate, one card read: “Julie. RIP. You will be fondly remembered.”

Helen Roan, who lives nearby, said: “You could always tell when Julie was in because you could hear her music, but she never bothered anyone.

“Once last winter she fell. My husband heard her calling for help and he took her home and got her settled. She said to him ‘Tell that woman of yours she’s got an angel’. He said she kept a really nice house.

“She didn’t deserve to go this way.”

Lothian and Borders Police confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances.

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