Great Fire of Edinburgh


A destructive fire which swept through the Old Town, the Great Fire of Edinburgh began in a printer's shop on the High Street and burned for four days. It killed 13 people and destroyed 400 homes, as well as other buildings, including the Tron Kirk.

James Braidwood (1800-61) had just formed the first Fire Brigade in Britain in Edinburgh. The force had not yet been fully trained or equipped, but fought bravely losing two of its number to the flames. Despite help from the garrison of Edinburgh Castle, the fire burned out-of-control until it was largely extinguished by a heavy shower of rain. The situation was not helped by a confusion of public officials who issued often contradictory orders wasting the efforts of the fireman. An enquiry praised the new force and a law was quickly passed which gave the Fire Master ultimate control of such emergency operations.

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