TERRIFIED city centre residents screamed for help yesterday after they were trapped in their homes by a massive blaze.
Witnesses reported a bang and shower of falling glass from a first floor flat in Edinburgh, followed by a fireball.
More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze in the city’s Fountainpark, rescuing at least five people from flats in the building.
A major tragedy may have been averted by the fact the Tollcross fire crews that responded are based less than 100 metres from the scene.
Witnesses said firefighters were on the scene in seconds, plucking terrified residents to safety using ladders.
Two women in their fifties, including a resident of the flat where the fire started, needed hospital treatment after suffering severe smoke inhalation.
Four women and a man, thought to be students in their 20s, were rescued using a mobile ladder and were treated at the scene.
The flat, which was gutted in the blaze, is above sandwich shop Rapid Rolls.
Diego Bonassa who works in the shop, was visibly shaken as he spoke about running for his life after the blaze broke out just after 10am.
The 31-year-old said: “I just heard a huge crash of glass.
“I looked outside and saw the glass coming down from the window and people outside shouting ‘there’s a fire’.
“We all grabbed our jackets and ran outside with them over our heads to try and shield ourselves from the falling glass.
“When we did get out flames were shooting out of the window and smoke was billowing out.”
He added: “I saw one girl, about 18 years old being taken down by the fire fighters on a ladder. She was covered in smoke but looked okay.
“It’s one of these situations you can’t stop to think. I just hope everyone is okay.”
Another eye-witness, who asked not to be named, said he thought at first the sandwich shop had burned something in their kitchen.
“Then I saw smoke billowing out the first floor flat window,” he said.
“Six fire engines arrived almost immediately.
“You could see people from flat windows screaming for help with passing public shouting at them to get out – but they were clearly trapped.
“They were rescued by firemen from the big ladders.”
Another eye witness, Gary McKenzie, 38, said the flames were shooting right above the first floor window.
He said: “People were hanging out of their windows shouting ‘help’. It was so scary.
“I heard a bang and the window was smashed. The people being rescued were all black with smoke. One of them was treated by paramedics for smoke.
“The fire fighters got here so quick though, they were great. The first fire fighter shot the window with water to try and calm the flames I guess.
“Was just horrible seeing these people screaming and shouting for help.”
Dramatic video footage posted on YouTube showed someone being rescued by a firefighter on a mobile ladder as the flame blazed below.
The footage, posted by Grant Macnamara, shows a firefighter helping the resident on to the ladder from a window on the top floor.
The resident is then carried on the ladder through a column of thick smoke and lifted down to safety.
A Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “The first units were on the scene within two minutes of being mobilised from Tollcross fire station, which is just round the corner from where the fire broke out.
“When crews arrived, they saw thick black smoke and flames coming from the window of the affected property and discovered two women who were already out of the building but who had been badly affected by smoke inhalation.
“Ten firefighters in breathing apparatus were used to fight the fire and check the six properties in the affected stair for other residents.
“One woman, who was in the flat above the property where the fire broke out, was given fire survival guidance by Control Room staff until crews were able to get to her and rescue her.
“As well as tackling the blaze, fire crews were systematically checking properties to ensure that no one else was trapped or overcome by the smoke from the fire.
“The incident commander was satisfied that all the premises were thoroughly searched and clear just after midday.”
The two women, who along with another man “self rescued”, were taken to hospital.
A spokeswoman from Scottish Ambulance Service said: “Two patients were transported to hospital and four were treated at the scene.
“We are still on site to assist the fire service, but we have no other reported casualties.”
The fire service reported cordons were coming down around the scene of the blaze, just after 12 midday.