EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - A fire tore through Edinburgh's
medieval Old Town, destroying 13 buildings, and firefighters
working to control the blaze in the neighborhood's narrow
cobblestone alleys said Sunday it would likely take two more days
to put it out completely.
The Old Town is the heart of Scotland's capital city and is
listed as a World Heritage site. None of the damaged buildings was
on the heritage listing.
Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control 18 hours
after it broke out Saturday night. But they were still battling
smaller blazes, trying to ensure that gusting winds did not spread
the flames to historically and architecturally significant
buildings.
"It is fair to say that we will be here I think for at least
another two days," said Del Simpson of Lothian and Borders Fire
Brigade.
Police and the fire brigade were investigating the cause of the
blaze.
The fire, which broke out shortly after 8 p.m. on Saturday
forced local authorities to evacuate about 150 people from their
homes.
The blaze caused some damage in the Grassmarket, a former market
place dating back to the 15th century, which bustles with bars,
cafes and restaurants. Though officials said no historic buildings
were damaged, several well-known properties were, including the
Guilded Balloon - a comedy venue for the Edinburgh Festival.
Edinburgh University said research work on artificial
intelligence was destroyed when one of its buildings was damaged. A
spokesman said researchers would have back up records, however.
The cobbled Royal Mile forms the spine of the Old Town, running
from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse - Queen
Elizabeth II's official residence when she stays in Scotland.
A network of cobbled alleyways, medieval courtyards and lanes
branch off along its length, containing historic buildings such as
St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh University, the City Chambers and
the Royal Museum of Scotland.
The brigade's senior divisional officer Graham Torrie described
the blaze as "certainly the biggest fire in Edinburgh in living
memory."
The air was filled with the sound of loudspeakers,
walkie-talkies and pumping equipment. Smoke billowed from buildings
as firefighters sprayed water onto roofs to stop the flames
spreading.
One firefighter has been taken to hospital with an injured
knee.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)