Museum of Fire move ‘not viable’, say angry campaigners

A protest outside the Fire Museum at Lauriston which is threatened with closure. Picture: Greg Macvean

A protest outside the Fire Museum at Lauriston which is threatened with closure. Picture: Greg Macvean

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CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the Museum of Fire in Lauriston Place say the only option put forward by fire chiefs is to relocate it to a much smaller space in a busy fire station in Leith.

Supporters say the collection of historic fire engines and other equipment should be preserved in its current home, the Capital’s old Central Fire Station and the only surviving Victorian fire station in the UK.

But the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) plans to sell off the building in a cost-cutting exercise.

It has promised to keep the collection in Edinburgh and says it is looking for a new “prominent location”.

But according to the campaigners, the only option on the table is for the museum to move to part of McDonald Road fire station, off Leith Walk.

The museum was previously based at McDonald Road before moving to Lauriston in 1986. But the space it occupied at that time, the former Auxiliary Fire Service base, is no longer available because it has been converted into offices and fitness suites.

Instead, it is understood the SFRS plans to relocate some staff from McDonald Road to other fire stations to make room in the main building for the museum – although it would still be less than half the space it currently occupies at Lauriston.

Colin Fraser, secretary of the Friends of the Museum, said: “They have said there are two spare bays at McDonald Road, but where we are now we occupy four bays and there’s other stuff too, so altogether it’s about five bays’ worth of equipment.

“And because McDonald Road is still an operational fire station I don’t know how they could partition it off to make it safe for the public to get into.

“They talk about it being a prominent location, but we couldn’t be more prominent than we are at the moment.

“People say the building makes the museum and the museum makes the building unique.

“The tour buses go past every 15 minutes and we get lots of foreign visitors.

“But McDonald Road is the only option they have come up with.”

Thousands of people have signed the petition to save the museum, which celebrates Edinburgh’s unique place in history as the home of the first municipal fire brigade, founded by pioneer James Braidwood in 1824, who later became first director of the London brigade.

The SFRS declined to comment on the latest plan.

A spokeswoman said: “As previously stated, we continue to explore options and are working closely with Scottish Government and City of Edinburgh Council to secure a new and prominent location that will enhance the museum’s legacy, and provide visitors with an engaging and enjoyable insight to our fire heritage.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com