Historic £1m fund to help fire victims

The fund will help those most in need after a fire. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The fund will help those most in need after a fire. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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A FUND worth £1 million which had gathered dust for almost 150 years has been brought back to life to help those affected by house fires.

The city council’s Surplus Fire Fund dates back to a series of fires on the High Street in 1824 but later became dormant – with accumulated assets worth £1.25 million.

Now, thanks to the passing of a Bill through the Scottish Parliament, it has been handed over to the Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations’ Council (EVOC) who have announced plans to hand out the money to those in need following a fire.

Those who earn less than the Living Wage can make an application for cash to cover counselling sessions or to replace household items and goods lost in a blaze.

And those running the fund said it would also be used to create an award to recognise the work of hero firefighters who go above and beyond in the line of duty.

The fund was reactivated by the council at the request of the Fire Brigades Union back in 2001 and several ­generous donations have since been made.

However, following the approval of MSPs control of the purse strings has passed to EVOC which currently oversees several other city trust funds.

EVOC director Ella Simpson said: “We are taking over the administration of the fund with a very clear view of ensuring help is given to those who suffer loss through fire. Counselling is very important following a fire as it can have a huge impact on people.

“We will also make awards to allow people replace furniture and household items.

“It’s great to be given such a historic and worthy trust to administer, it’s a real piece of city history.”

She added: “All money within the fund will be given to those who need it while we plan to present an award and certificate to any hero ­firefighters.”

Leaflets advertising the fund and how to make a claim will now be drawn up and passed to fire stations, burns units, social workers and other ­voluntary organisations by the end of April.

The Great Fire of 1824 took place on the High Street between November 15 and 17.

The first fire started in a large seven-storey building containing a copperplate ­printing house.

From there the blaze then leapt from roof to roof across the tightly-packed buildings.

The estimated value of the damage is thought to have been approximately £200,000. Ten people died in the disaster and many others were seriously injured while between four and five hundred families were made homeless.

In total £11,000 was originally collected to assist those who were caught up in the fires, which has since grown into the sum of £1.25 million.

City finance convenor and Cllr Alasdair Rankin said: “We want to see the money used in the best possible way and charities like EVOC are better placed than the council to do that. Simply by changing how funds such as these are managed can bring greater benefit to charities, the council and those people in Edinburgh who need help. In these financially difficult times, that is good news for everyone.”

Child injured

A CHILD was treated in hospital after a blaze broke out in a city flat in the early hours of the morning.

Two adults also suffered smoke inhalation after a suspected chip pan fire.

Fire crews were called to a property in Elbe Street, Leith, at around 5am on Saturday.

The child, along with a man and a woman, were taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.