HORRIFIED firefighters discovered a pensioner engulfed in flames during a blaze in a sheltered housing complex in Leith.
The 69-year-old died from severe burns just hours after he was dragged free from the fire that ripped through his Bield Housing Association flat off Easter Road on Tuesday night, it emerged today.
It is understood fire crews found the man lying in his bed after conducting a search of the property amid searing heat and dense black smoke.
A source at the scene said it was impossible to tell whether the man had been wearing clothes due to the extent of the burns to his body. Emergency services rushed to the property at 7.30pm after being alerted by a member of staff who heard the smoke alarm ringing. An automatic fire alarm was also triggered by smoke but no attempt to rescue the man had been made before fire crews arrived.
The man later died at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
The cause of the fire is not yet known but it is thought a cigarette may have sparked the blaze.
Moira Richardson, group commander at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, praised the heroism of firefighters who braved dangerous conditions to mount a rescue and offered her sympathies to the family of the deceased.
“A large portion of the room was ablaze and crews were faced with a considerable amount of heat, a well-developed fire and very thick black smoke which meant they couldn’t see into the room and had to rescue the man using touch,” she said.
“Because it was such an emergency situation we removed him by hand and placed him in a position of safety before an ambulance took him on a stretcher.
“Crews then concentrated on controlling and extinguishing the fire and dealing with the smoke in the premises and making sure all the other residents were safe. The firefighters who rescued him are distressed and greatly saddened that he passed away in hospital.”
Alister McDonald, deputy chief executive at Bield Housing Association, said: “As with any incident as serious as this, we will be reviewing procedures and if there’s any lessons to learn we will be doing that.
“The fire alarm went off and a member of staff contacted the fire brigade. There’s nothing obvious that was supposed to happen that did not happen.
“Our policy is not to try to effect a rescue in these circumstances but to contact the fire brigade.”
A spokesman for the organisation added: “Bield very much regrets the loss of life and our sympathies are with his family. We will be co-operating fully with the police and fire service in their investigations to ascertain the cause of the fire.”