Nostalgia: Hose line is it anyway?

FIREFIGHTERS in the Capital came in for criticism this week after a government report raised concern about the high casualty figures in the area.

The Audit Scotland report for the Accounts Commission said it was concerned that the number of people killed or injured in fires in and around Edinburgh was the highest in Scotland per head of population.

The fire service hit back, saying the high figures were a result of it providing first aid to a higher number of people on the scene, with each one recorded as a “casualty”.

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Whether or not the criticism is justified, it is certainly the case that the oldest municipal fire brigade in the United Kingdom, stretching back to 1703, has always been on hand to help anyone – or anything – who needed it.

In 1967, for example, two kindly firefighters were seen providing oxygen to a canary they rescued from a fire in Leith Street. It later emerged the blaze had been spotted by the bird’s owner as she drove past on a bus.

One of the earliest pictures of the city’s fearless firefighters, from the 19th century, shows the sort of primitive equipment the original crews had to use as they worked to protect the historic buildings of the Capital.

In recent years, much of the work of the fire service has been about preventing fires, ensuring buildings have proper smoke alarms and people are well prepared. In 1955, though, it was all about fighting them, when two fierce blazes broke out within hours of each other in the city centre.

Crews raced to the scene with turntable ladders to tackle the fire at the C&A Modes department store, another example of how the service, from its early days of leather water buckets, has always been working to keep the city safe.