Residents flee fire in JK Rowling street


By Kevin Duguid, Anna Gault and Kirsty Topping


Relatives and neighbours comforted those who had been forced from their homes

DOZENS of  residents fled their homes early this morning after fire broke out in the narrow Edinburgh street where JK Rowling once lived.

The blaze broke out in Hazelbank Terrace, causing devastation just yards from the first floor flat Rowling bought early in her rise to fame.

Flames ripped through as many as six properties and the roof of at least one building collapsed following the 5.20am blaze.

Forty firefighters went to the scene but could not get their fire engines into the cramped street. They were forced to park in the next street and link sections of hose together to tackle the flames.

Two people were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene, although no-one was taken to hospital.

A fire brigade spokeswoman said that on arrival they found a ground floor flat well alight with the fire spreading to neighbouring properties.

Around ten fire engines and support vehicles were sent to the scene as police closed roads in the area.

Six flats were damaged by the fire, three of them severely

The blaze quickly spread into the roof space of the two storey houses as ten firefighters wearing breathing masks and usining three hoses fought to get the fire under control.

Two hours after the fire started, at three properties in the row of colony houses were affected and the roof of one of the buildings had collapsed. Partial roof collapses were also reported in the two other affected houses. Later reports from the scene suggested as many as six properties had been gutted.

One resident, who lived next door to where the fire erupted, said: “The fireman said the fire started after a chip pan was left on all night. My house was full of smoke when we left. We have been told there will be water damage to our home, but these things happen.

“It’s a surreal thing to be happening at this time in the morning. You think ‘This is not happening, my house is not full of smoke.”

Her husband added: “The house is a write off. We’ve got some of our paintings but not all of them, and some are irreplaceable. Sentimental things have been lost which we can’t replace.”

The couple then left the scene to visit a supermarket to buy clothes to wear for the rest of the day.

Liz Hare, who lives in the street, said: “The flames were between 10 and 15ft high. It was quite alarming because the fire happened just two doors down from us.”

She said neighbours were handing out cups of tea to residents waiting to get back in their homes.

James Lindsay, 58, who also lives in the street, admitted: “I slept through the whole thing. Then one of my friends phoned me to tell me there was a fire in Hazelbank Terrace. I came outside and saw all the engines and the noise.”

Sharon and Simon Bromberger were evacuated from their home, just a few doors from the blaze

Sharon Bromberger, 40, who lives a few doors down from where the fire started, said: “We were woken by a neighbour around 5:30am and we saw the smoke and fire engines.

“It was really scary and our 7-year-old son was terrified and shouting at his sister to get out.

“There are a lot of families in these houses and even some pregnant women so this has been a real scare.”

Her husband, Simon, 42, added: “It makes you feel really quite impotent, that there is nothing you can do.

“There are some real concerns, first of all with the parking around the houses because the fire engines couldn’t even get close to it and had to get extenders for the hoses.

“The electrics in the houses are not brilliant  so it is scary that a fire could start because of those.”

Fire brigade Group Commander Geoff Aird, who was in charge of the incident, said the construction of the properties made their job especially difficult and dangerous.

Locals reported that the fire was caused by a chip pan being left on overnight

“They have false ceilings and extensions. We eventually withdrew all staff because there was an issue with collapse internally, so we attacked the fire from outside.”

Mr Aird confirmed that six properties had been damaged, three severely and three smoke-damaged.

He said building safety experts were concerned that at least one chimney and a gable end were in danger of collapse.

The fire brigade spokeswoman said: “Firefighters have been working very hard in challenging conditions to bring this large scale fire under control.

“There are no reports of casualties at this stage. The fire spread into the roof space and we have seen the roof collapse in one property and a partial collapse in two others houses affected by the fire.

“The damage to all three properties is significant. We expect to be at the scene for some time and would advise people to avoid the immediate area whilst firefighting operations continue.”

Hazelbank Terrace is made up of Edinburgh’s famous colony houses which were built in the 1800s for skilled working-class families.

Rowling was able to buy the two bedroom property at number 19 Hazelbank Terrace after she received a $100,000 advance from American publishers for the rights to her novels.