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Friday, September 19, 2014



On Dec. 7, 2002, fire struck Edinburgh Old Town.

Flames started above a nightclub, the Belle Angele.

According to Wikipedia:

"The complicated nature of the buildings, with narrow alleys and entrances from the same building onto streets at different heights, complicated efforts to fight the fire."

Firefighers described it as a "rabbit warren."

Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade Divisional Officer David Young told the BBC: "A substantial part of the core of the heart of the Old Town of Edinburgh has been destroyed."

Images: BBC



Photos: and Evening Times

Fire destroyed Govan High School in Glasgow on June 6, 1962. The blaze was deemed accidental. There were no serious injuries.

Thursday, September 4, 2014


UPDATED FEB. 13, 2018

Photo: BBC

On Oct. 21, 1971, a natural gas explosion at Clarkston Toll shopping center near Glasgow killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others. The smell of gas lingered in the days leading up to the explosion. Workers were unable to locate the source. Investigators determined a fractured and corroded pipeline fueled the explosion. Twenty fire engines responded as did all available Glasgow ambulances.


We received the following from a reader in February 2018:

My name is John Brown and whilst searching for images of old fire appliances from the City of Glasgow Fire Service in Scotland I stumbled across your fire journals.
With reference to the Clarkston Explosion of 1971 I can vaguely recall it.  We lived at the other side of Glasgow and at the age of five my head was full of more important things like toys as well as what was for my dinner and the like.  Anyway, I knew something serious had occurred what with the TV news as well as the following days newspapers lying around.
Just recently STV broadcasted a short half hour documentary on it titled The Clarkston Explosion presented by the historian Fergus Sutherland as part of the series “The Peoples History Show.”  The key mains points were as follows:
The Clarkston shopping centre was constructed in 1965 with a rooftop car park and the old railway station to the rear.
An underground four-inch gas main ran the length of the shops separated from the legacy cellars by a four-foot bank of earth.
British (Scottish) gas were in the process of converting as well as replacing old systems to run on Natural Gas as opposed to what was referred to as “Town Gas.”  This program of conversion and/or replace took ten years to complete commencing in 1967 with its completion in 1977.  During this period British Gas shipped natural gas from the drilling rigs off the Northumbrian coast north prior to the Oil and Gas drilling platforms in the North Sea between the North East coast of Scotland and the coast of Norway coming on line.  Unfortunately, this program hadn’t reached Clarkston by this point.
An Emeritus Expert Professor Douglas Greenhaulgh from the Glasgow Caledonian University explained that Town Gas as opposed to Natural Gas was extremely flammable as well as Toxic which would explain why the persons in the shops adjacent to the ruptured gas main fell ill the day before the explosion.
He continued to explain that Town Gas was a combination of Hydrogen, Carbon Monoxide and Methane.  A smell of gas had been reported a few days prior to the explosion unfortunately during this period the gas percolated through the earth banking into the legacy cellars beneath the shops where it had built up.  He went on to say that at the time of the explosion it would’ve probably have been estimated that the force of the blast would have been equivalent 300lbs of TNT going off.  


“Everything appeared normal for about three minutes. Then, suddenly, we all started collapsing. It just hit us.”

On Dec. 2, 1960, Station Officer Douglas Mearns of the St. Mungo fireboat died battling a fire in the hold of the German freighter M.V. Pagensand at Prince's Dock, Govan.

Eleven other firemen and a dock worker were overcome by fumes.

The firemen were wearing breathing apparatus and “went down like ninepins without warning,” Glasgow Firemaster Martin Chadwick told reporters.

The vessel carried matches, wood pulp and paper.

Berhold Schlinder, master of the Pagensand, said the fire was discovered at sea and that the cargo continued to smolder after the crew sealed the hatches and vents.

Friday, May 9, 2014

OBAN - 1973

Photos: and
On July 24, 1973, a hotel fire on the Scotish seafront claimed 10 lives.

It was Scotland's deadliest hotel fire since the end of World War II and led to reforms in U.K. safety regulations.

In the House of Commons, Gordon Campbell, secretary of state for Scotland, told the chamber:

"Just after four o'clock this morning a fire call was received from the police about a fire at the Esplanade Hotel, Oban"

"The fire station at Oban turned out two fire engines immediately and at the same time summoned assistance which was provided from Lochgilphead and Inveraray.

"When the Oban fire engines arrived at the hotel they saw flames coming from the upper floors and in the roof."

Oban's part-time fire crew raised ladders to rescue guests perched on ledges and one ladder snapped in the heat.

The hotel wasn't up to safety standards.

Hotel Owner Ian Nicholson told the Daily Record:

"I knew it was a fire risk. I only wish I could turn the clock back. I had been told to carry out extensive modifications, but I postponed them because of costs."

Thursday, May 8, 2014


The Lockerbie Disaster struck on Dec. 21, 1988, when a bomb exploded aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

The crash killed 243 passengers and 16 crew.
Large sections of the the Boeing 747 jumbo jet aircraft rained onto  the village of Lockerbie, killing 11 people on the ground and setting numerous fires.

The flight was to proceed from Frankfurt to Detroit by way of London and New York.

The following is a report of the fire brigade response, based primarily on information from

1900: Residents of Lockerbie report sound of loud thunder, see fiery debris falling from sky.

1903: First report of aircraft crash radioed by police patrol in Lockerbie to Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary.

1904: Call from a member of the public to Dumfries and Galloway Fire Brigades control room reporting “huge boiler explosion” at West Acres in Lockerbie. Further calls from police and members of public reporting aircraft down. Assistant Divisional Officer visiting relatives in vicinity of Lockerbie confirms an aircraft had crashed. The ADO proceeded to the crash site.

1907: Fire brigade mobilized.

1910: Fire crews arrived at scene. Upon arrival, ADO sent priority message “Make Pumps 4” and requested ambulances to the scene.

ABOUT 1915: ADO relieved by supervising officer who ordered  “Make Pumps 10" and requested activation of "Major Incident Plan." After further assessment, the officer ordered "Make Pumps 15." Informative message followed: “A large number of houses alight; water supply interrupted; surrounding area evacuated; incident control unit in attendance and set up at Sherwood Crescent; main fuselage has landed in the Rosebank area to which crews are being despatched.”
ABOUT 1940: Ambulances started transporting injured townspeople to hospital. Shelter opened at town hall.
2008: Divisional commander arrived on scene. Ordered search of all houses, ensured crews stopped fires from spreading.

ABOUT 2200: Firemaster arrived on scene.

2209: Firemaster ordered “Make Pumps 20.” Sent informative message: “A series of fires over area of Lockerbie town centre extending to 1 ½ miles by ½ mile wide; 40 mainly single story domestic properties completely destroyed or damaged to various degrees by fire and/or impact. The main concentration of the fire in area southwest of Lockerbie in Sherwood Park and Crescent Extensive number of casualties and fires reported in area east of Lockerbie in Park Place and Rosebank Crescent. Fires and casualties being attended to by joint emergency services. Reports received at incident control unit of further fire and casualties at Tundergarth, four miles east of Lockerbie, appliances now in attendance. Water and electricity supplies have been interrupted in Lockerbie town centre. Water is being relayed over varying distances. Reinforcing appliances should report to the incident control unit situated adjacent to Lockerbie police station.”

0222: Last of the major fires extinguished.

0336: Appliances from neighboring brigades along with their senior officers were released from incident.

1412: Stop message sent: “Stop for major incident Lockerbie; all seats of fire now extinguished; crews will be deployed to any individual premises in the event of any re-ignition as a result of removal of debris and may further be deployed in damping down and turning over operations. It is anticipated that the brigade be stood down at 18.00 hours today and attendance be resumed at 08.00 hours tomorrow."

RESOURCES: 188 fire service personnel; 20 pumps, including 13 from Dumfries & Galloway, 4 from Cumbria, 2 from Lothian & Borders and 1 from Strathclyde; 1 turntable ladder; 2 incident control units; 2 emergency tenders; 1 breathing apparatus support unit; 3 military pumps with RAF crash/rescue tender; milk tenders pressed into service for emergency water relay.


Photo: The Glasgow Story

On Jan. 7, 1898, four Glasgow firemen - John Battersby, James Hastie, Charles Orr and David Smith - died in an explosion and collapse at W&R Hatrick & Co., wholesale and export druggists, on Renfield Street.

The fire was reported at 2:50 a.m.

According to The Glasgow Story website:

"Captain William Paterson was on the scene quickly with the Northern and Central Divisions of the city's fire service, and the blaze was brought under control.

"At about 4.20am however, as the last firemen were dampening the wreckage, there was a large explosion which was believed to have resulted from the ignition of chemicals stored on the site.

"Four firemen were killed in the blast and two others taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary with serious injuries."


Photo: The Glasgow Story

On Sept. 28, 1953, disaster was averted at Stobcross Quay, Finnieston.

Firefighters saved the tanker Alva Bay, which was moored at the quay and carried 1,500 tons of fuel oil.

The blaze, which broke out in the storage sheds and smoldered for days, "took hold among rolls of newspapers," according to The Glasgow Story website.

"Exploding gas canisters added to the dangers facing firefighters.

"At one stage the river fire boat came up under the stern of the tanker in order to bring additional hoses to play on the flames."

Sunday, May 4, 2014


They provided a vital service for more than a century.

The Glasgow Salvage Corps was organized Nov. 22, 1873 by the Glasgow Rate and Salvage Association and disbanded April 1, 1984 along with salvage corps in London and Liverpool, all of which were funded by insurance companies.
The transition of ocean shipping to container vessels from bulk carriers played a role in the decision to disband the salvage corps in the three port cities, as did construction of industrial estates away from the docklands.
The original Glasgow Salvage Corps station was on Nicholas Street. It relocated to 203-213 Albion Street in the late 19th Century and moved to 90 Maitland Street on June 22, 1972.
On March 28, 1960, a blaze on Glasgow's Cheapside Street killed 19 firemen - including five members of the salvage corps - in the greatest loss of life in the U.K. fire service since World War II.
The photo of the Cheapside Street memorial is from Graeme Kirkwood's history of the Scottish fire service.


   Glasgow Fire Brigade Crossing the Albert Bridge

Monday, January 13, 2014


In 1978, a fire believed to have started in a chip pan roared out of control at the Grosvenor Hotel in Glasgow and overwhelmed poorly equipped military crews covering for striking firemen. 

The sailors and marines argued they could have stopped the flames sooner had they been equipped with turntable ladders rather than antiquated "Green Goddess" reserve engines.

Two sailors had a narrow escape when the kitchen ceiling collapsed, according to The Herald.


The Quintinshill rail disaster occurred May 22, 1915, between Glasgow and Carlisle. A troop train collided with a local and an express plowed into the wreckage. As many as 226 people died; 246 were hurt.


Photo: Glasgow City Council

On Nov. 18, 1972, a fire at a disused furniture shop killed a Glasgow firefighter and another person.

The shop was located in Great Western Road.

According to The Glasgow Story website:

"Forty-one dwellings, six shops, two public houses and a post office were destroyed by fire or subsequent demolition and fifty families were made homeless.

"A stretch of the Glasgow Underground was damaged and had to be closed.

"In the wake of the incident, which came close on the heels of the Kilbirnie Street disaster of 25 August, there were demands for the introduction of greater fire safety precautions."


On Nov. 29, 2013, a police helicopter crashed into Clutha Vaults, a pub on the north bank of the River Clyde in central Glasgow. Ten people died. (All three aboard the helicopter, six on the ground, with another succumbing later to injuries sustained in the pub.)

Friday, January 10, 2014


On Nov. 3, 1969, a blaze at Glasgow's Theatre Royal claimed the life of fireman Archie McLay, according to the Evening Times.

The fire brigade turned to high expansion foam to flood the basement and extinguish the flames, which burned for 10 hours.

At the time, the building housed studios of Scottish television.

According to STV:

The fireman fell through a trapdoor in the building and was unable to activate his BA distress warning system.

Another firefighter who attended the blaze, John Jamieson, went on to invent an automatic Distress Signal Unit (DSU) for firefighters which would go off if they stopped moving for 30 seconds.


 Photo: Glasgow University Library
 On Oct. 28, 1961, fire gutted the Metropole Theatre on Stockwell Street, Glasgow. Opened in 1862 as the Scotia Music Hall, the building featured a 160-foot foyer that opened into a music hall lined with dark polished wood.


Glasgow's Hall Street Fire Station on V-E Day in 1945