City’s iconic fire museum under threat

An old fire pump on display at the museum. Picture: Bill Henry
An old fire pump on display at the museum. Picture: Bill Henry
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THE museum honouring Edinburgh’s role as home of the first municipal fire brigade in Europe faces an uncertain future because of cost-saving plans agreed for Scotland’s new single fire service.

The Museum of Fire displays a unique collection of vintage fire engines and fire-fighting equipment from 1426 to the present day and charts the history of the Edinburgh brigade founded by pioneer James Braidwood in 1824.

But the city’s Lauriston Place fire station, which houses the museum, is one of a long list of fire service premises around the country that could be disposed of in a move designed to save £4.7 million a year in property running costs.

A report detailing the big sell-off said: “Steps will be taken to ensure continued public access to heritage assets in Edinburgh.”

But city politicians are demanding clearer answers about what fire chiefs’ intentions are for the museum.

Edinburgh Central SNP MSP Marco Biagi said the museum was “much loved” and could be developed into even more of an asset for the city.

He said: “I intend to push for the retention of the Museum of Fire. It’s an irreplaceable historic asset for the city, and rather than just being ‘protected’ it should be cherished and if at all possible expanded. There are many established cultural organisations in Edinburgh, and a future based on partnership with one of them could be a bright one.”

Mike Bridgman, who chairs the city council’s police and fire committee, said it would be “galling” if the fire museum was lost.

He said: “Edinburgh is where the first municipal fire service started. It would be disappointing if we lost the museum and its heritage all because of centralisation.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said the Lauriston station was a large site and the museum was based in a separate block. “We hope that part of the building can be retained so people can still access the museum,” she said.

She said the board of the single fire service had agreed long-term strategic plans for the properties which previously belonged to Scotland’s eight separate brigades.

She said: “We have inherited the property of eight organisations and we have to reduce that duplication, we have to rationalise our property estate. These are long-term aims and they rely on being able to sell these assets.” The board last week rejected plans to cut the number of fire control rooms from eight to two, which would have closed the Edinburgh centre at Tollcross and switched 999 calls to Dundee. Instead there are to be three – one in Johnstone in Renfrewshire and the other two to be chosen from Edinburgh, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness.

The board also approved the controversial closure of the national fire training ­college in Gullane, East Lothian, which was saved from the axe in 2008.