Clear-up begins after huge blaze wrecks colony homes

RESIDENTS were today picking up the pieces after a massive fire gutted three historic properties in a Shandon Street.

More than 40 firefighters were called to tackle the fire, which ripped through the colony homes in Hazelbank Terrace, at around 5.20am yesterday.

A female casualty was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary suffering from smoke inhalation as other residents in the street – where JK Rowling once lived – were evacuated.

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An investigation into the cause of the blaze, suspected to be a chip pan fire, is under way.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We’ve got no idea what we are going to do at the moment, we’re devastated.

“We’ll probably have to stay with friends. Everything we own is in the house. We’ll have to find out what the damage is – at the moment, I think it’s pretty substantial.

“Obviously we are worried about our belongings, but at the end of the day everybody is safe and that’s the most important thing. My wife is pregnant so I was worried about her.

“Everybody has been looking after each other and supporting each other. There’s been a real sense of community spirit.”

The roof collapsed on one of the properties hit by fire and partially collapsed on two others. Other homes sustained smoke damage.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said the fire- fighting operation had been made “more difficult” by the area’s congested narrow streets. A height appliance was unable to gain access because of the crammed roads but around 10 fire engines spent nine hours fighting the flames.

At one point, firefighters evacuated from the house where the blaze ignited because the roof was becoming dangerously unstable.

A roll call was taken before the crews were sent in to the neighbouring properties to stop the fire spreading.

Police cordoned off neighbouring Ashley Terrace following the fire and part of the public walkway running beneath Hazelbank Terrace after a building control officer raised concerns that a chimney stack and a gable end had become unstable.

Group commander Geoff Aird said the fire had quickly escalated and the many false ceilings and extensions contained within the properties had made the situation difficult.

IT worker Simon Bronberger, 42, who was evacuated from his home, said: “We got out of the house at about 5.30am after we were woken up by one of the neighbours.

“Then at about 7am they moved the cordon further up the street.

“It was worrying and I just felt completely helpless watching the fire spread further up.

“Obviously the neighbours have lost their homes and it’s really sad.”

The Shandon colonies were built in the late 1800s for skilled working-class families.