Fire Destroys Part of Scotland's Edinburgh District

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.


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.