Fire chiefs announce plans for fire museum and community hub

The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh
. Picture;

 Neil Hanna
The Fire Service Museum, Edinburgh . Picture; Neil Hanna
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FIRE bosses have confirmed plans to move the Capital’s Museum of Fire to a purpose-built facility at McDonald Road fire station.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has already announced it is selling off the museum’s current base at the historic former Central Fire Station in Lauriston Place – the last surviving Victorian fire station – to Edinburgh University.

Campaigners are still fighting to keep the museum, with its unique collection of vintage fire engines and other artefacts, in its existing home.

But the SFRS has now signalled its determination to press ahead with the relocation by announcing it intends the museum to be the centrepiece of a “community hub” to be developed at McDonald Road fire station, off Leith Walk.

It said the new attraction would be designed to appeal to all ages and interests, combining historical artefacts with modern interactive displays.

And it added the community hub would give children the opportunity to learn about the fire service’s past, present and future role as well as gaining important safety advice.

The SFRS said that, subject to planning and budgetary approvals, the new museum was expected to open alongside the re-developed fire station in 2018. But it could not say how much the revamp would cost.

And it could not give details of what would happen to the museum’s artefacts between the sale to the university early next year and the new facility at McDonald Road opening in 2018.

The SFRS said the McDonald Road station would continue to serve as an important operational base for the area and the refurbishment would not affect emergency response.

The museum was housed at McDonald Road before moving to Lauriston Place in 1988 after the Central Fire Station closed.

Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay, who chairs the SFRS heritage committee, claimed the planned move back to McDonald Road meant the museum was “coming home”.

He said: “We understand that our heritage is important not only to the people who have served in the fire service but also to the people of Edinburgh. We promised to protect that heritage and that is exactly what we are doing – because it is important to us also.

“This new location will enable us to celebrate the proud firefighting heritage of Edinburgh and allow even more visitors to discover the story of James Braidwood and the famous Edinburgh Fire Establishment. I am absolutely certain that the local community will be quick to see the benefits of this new facility, not least as it will provide an important hub for youth engagement and safety advice.”

Retired firefighter and museum volunteer George Gray said they were disappointed the SFRS had ignored the strong public support for keeping the museum in its current home.

He said: “McDonald Road is hardly city centre and no-one would suggest it compares with Lauriston Place, which is a classic 19th century fire station.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com