Balcony rescue after blaze at New Town flat

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A FINANCE worker was today rescued from the balcony of his New Town flat after a fire left him trapped 35ft above the street.

Ian Cormack, 36, was just starting his breakfast when smoke started pouring into his Dundas Street flat just before 8am.

He called the fire brigade after finding himself trapped inside because of the thick smoke in the stairwell outside his flat. Following the directions of the 999 operator he climbed halfway out on to the tiny balcony outside his window to wait to be rescued.

Firefighters took about ten minutes to arrive and bring him down using ladders.

Mr Cormack, 36, said seeing the smoke was "the last thing he expected" as he sat down for breakfast.

He said: "I started seeing a lot of white smoke and thought it must be from somebody having a fire in the gardens behind my flat.

"But it started getting darker so I went out to the hall and opened the door and black smoke just came pouring into the hall. That’s when I phoned the fire brigade."

The operator at Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade told Mr Cormack, who works for Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, that he should go to the part of the flat where there was the least smoke.

He moved through into his sitting room which opens to the street and where there was a window with a small balcony. He said he "ended up half in the room and half out of the window".

"By this time I was quite concerned because there was a lot of smoke coming into the room but the firefighters came very quickly," he said.

"They sent a platform up to get me and I was taken down to the ambulance as I was suffering a bit from smoke inhalation."

With the quick work by the fire brigade to extinguish the fire, the only damage to Mr Cormack’s flat was that caused by the smoke.

He said: "Looking back on it, it was pretty dramatic. But it would have been more so if these guys hadn’t turned up so quickly or if it had been in the middle of the night."

Station officer Gordon Fisher and his team from Crewe Toll were called to the fire as back-up after the original crews from MacDonald Road had battled to put it out. He said: "The fire was in the second floor flat, which was unoccupied, and there was heavy smoke- logging in the flats above.

"A bloke in the flat above was the one who called us and he received advice on the phone about what to do.

"Using a hydraulic lift we got him from the balcony - it was quite a daring and dramatic rescue. There was also one man in the flat to the right of his who was brought down the stairs. The men were treated at the scene but neither of them were taken to hospital."

Mr Fisher said there was extensive damage to the hallway outside the second floor flat and that initial investigations showed chemicals involved in the renovation of the flat appeared to be responsible for the blaze.

He said: "The people working on the flat were using linseed oil on the floorboards and this had been put on rags which were then thrown away in rubbish bags.

"What happens is that the linseed oil builds in heat and there is nowhere for the heat to go with the result that it ignites in spontaneous combustion.

"This set fire to the waste in the bag and that spread to material in the hallway."

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade said: "We got several calls at around 7.40am. It was a second-floor flat at Dundas Street which was well alight.

"One male was rescued by hydraulic platform. Four pumping appliances attended plus three support vehicles and 30 firefighters. Two hose-reels were used."

A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said that both Mr Cormack and the person living in the flat next to him had to be treated by medics after the blaze.

He said: "We treated two people at the scene for smoke inhalation. They did not travel to the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary."