Edinburgh fire: 800 businesses and homes in city centre left without power after fire at City Chambers

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Shops and offices forced to close after electricity went off

More than 800 shops, homes and offices in the city centre were left without power for part of the day after fire broke out in an electricity sub-station in the basement of the City Chambers.

Shops and restaurants were forced to close until the supply was restored. The City Chambers was evacuated and remains closed while work continues on the sub-station. And the High Court in Edinburgh was also affected. It posted a message on social media saying it would remain closed for the rest of the day. “Any outstanding business will be moved to tomorrow. All other court buildings in Edinburgh are unaffected.”

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Four fire engines rushed to the scene at the rear of the City Chambers in in Cockburn Street and put out the fire, but the incident caused a power outage affecting a wide area around the High Street and Cockburn Street.

Fire engines in Cockburn Street, close to the basement entrance to the City ChambersFire engines in Cockburn Street, close to the basement entrance to the City Chambers
Fire engines in Cockburn Street, close to the basement entrance to the City Chambers

Council leader Cammy Day said he understood an electrical short circuit had led to a fire inside a cabinet in the basement of the City Chambers. “The fire service came out and dealt with it, but it is now in the hands of Scottish Power. They told me power to 800 homes and businesses was put out. All the lights were off in the shops, but they’re back on now. Apparently they can divert the power for them from somewhere else.

"But the Chambers, because it’s directly powered into the grid, that will take till tonight, possibly through the night, but they say that should be back for tomorrow. The council does have generators built into the bottom of the Chambers as a back-up, but they’re there for essential services as well.”

He said the city’s licensing board had been meeting at the time of the fire, but it had relocated to the council offices at Waverley Court to continue its meeting. Staff evacuated from the City Chambers were allowed back into the building to collect belongings but only in small groups and escorted in and out of the building by a fire officer.

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Cllr Day said: “I would commend the fast action of the fire service in dealing with this, I’m glad no-one has been injured as a result and I hope Scottish Power can get this sorted. “

He said the City Chambers would remain closed until Wednesday at least. The registrars office, customer hub, Mary King’s Close and Visit Scotland office will also remain closed.

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: "We were alerted at 10.50am on Monday, November 27, to reports of a fire within the server room of a building in Edinburgh."Operations Control mobilised four appliances to the city's Cockburn Street, where firefighters extinguished the fire and worked to make the area safe. Crews remain on scene working to support their partners."

A spokesperson for SP Energy Networks said: "Around 800 customers were without power for 40 minutes earlier today following an issue at our Cockburn Street A substation in Edinburgh city centre. Engineers attended the site immediately and got to work on restoring supplies as quickly as possible. Supplies to a further 45 customers were restored within a couple of hours after initial repair works were completed.

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"Work is ongoing to restore the power to the City Chambers, which is the only affected customer at this time and we're working closely with the Council on this. We're sorry for any inconvenience caused and will continue to do all we can to complete these works ASAP."