AN investigation is today trying to establish the cause of a blaze which broke out in the kitchen of a TGI Friday’s restaurant – causing part of its roof to collapse.
In dramatic scenes, staff evacuated around 60 customers from the Castle Street diner before firefighters on ladders tackled flames bursting through the roof with high-pressure water jets.
Workers inside the restaurant said the fire, which erupted at around 12.45pm yesterday, may have originated in a funnel which evacuates gases and heat from the kitchen.
More than 50 firefighters fought to control the blaze while the street was cordoned off at both entrances to Rose Street and George Street by police as plumes of black smoke spread over the city centre.
Gas fitter Mick Gorman, 63, works for Dawnvale gas and electrical engineers, a firm which carries out maintenance work for the TGI chain. He said: “We were fixing a broken dishwasher about 10 or 15 metres from the kitchen, which is at the back of the building.
“We’d just fixed it and were packing up when one of the staff came out the kitchen and said there might be a fire. Two other staff members ran in and then the fire alarm went off.
“The staff started evacuating everyone. There was no panic or anything, no one ran. It was very calm and the staff were very professional. They got everyone out straight away.
“It’s speculation at this point but the fire might have started in the canopy of the kitchen which has a funnel to draw away gases and heat. If the funnel’s packed in, that might have caused it.”
Firefighters used a number of water jets to douse the flames while colleagues in breathing apparatus went room-to-room to ensure no one was left inside the building.
Mr Gorman’s colleague, Dave Chapman, 34, was also in the restaurant at the time of the blaze. He said: “The smoke was coming out white for about five to ten minutes after the alarm went off then it turned to pitch black for about 20 minutes, probably because of wood in the roof burning.
“The restaurant could be closed for some time. Some of the staff were saying a month. I don’t think it’ll be as long as that. This is the busiest time of year for them and they’ll want to be back up and running again.
“It depends on how much damage has been done and whether equipment will need replaced or not.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service confirmed the probe is on-going.
Darrell Wade, TGI Friday’s chief operating officer, said:“We are now working closely with the Edinburgh fire service to help understand the cause of the fire; at this stage the exact cause and location of the breakout is inconclusive.”
Community centre fire was started deliberately
A fire which ripped through a community centre in Wester Hailes was started deliberately, according to police.
Almost 60 firefighters were needed at the height of the blaze, which tore through the derelict Dove Centre on Hailesland Place on Thursday night and took 10 hours to put out. The roof of the one-storey prefabricated building collapsed in the heat, with thick smoke sparking numerous calls to authorities.
Nobody was injured, but the fire sent a thick black plume of smoke into the air above neighbouring houses.
Police Scotland said they are treating the fire as suspicious and an investigation is under way.
A fire at the Sighthill Community Health and Advice Centre, also on Hailesland Place, on Tuesday night is also being treated as suspicious.
Firefighters called out to stairwell
Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service found itself dealing with a third fire yesterday.
The call to the fire in a common stair on Lothian Road came at around 4.40pm. It is understood that debris including a mattress in the stairwell caught fire, though the cause was still unknown at time of going to press.
Firefighters, who were seen removing burned and blackened debris from the building following the incident, used breathing apparatus and two hoses to extinguish the ground-floor fire. No-one was injured. Police attended the scene to aid with road closures. An investigation into the cause of the blaze is ongoing.
The closure of Lothian Road during the incident, plus road closures caused by the Festival and a number of other fires around Edinburgh, led to large rush hour tailbacks in the city centre.
Fire prevention officials advise that communal stairwells should always be kept clear to prevent fire and to provide a clear evacuation pathway.