Edinburgh’s St James Centre site evacuated after fire breaks out

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EDINBURGH’S billion pound St James development was evacuated for the second time in the space of a month after a fire caused by an ‘exploding’ gas cylinder forced workers off the site.

Eyewitnesses described emergency crews racing to the scene at around 3:30pm to deal with the incident, while hundreds of workers were forced to wait outside.

The fire caused smoke to billow out above Edinburgh city centre.

The fire caused smoke to billow out above Edinburgh city centre.

It comes just four weeks after the site was shut for several hours while bomb disposal experts investigated the discovery of a metal object thought to be unexploded ordnance.

However, it was later revealed the item was in fact a decoration from a historic wall.

The St James development will create 850,000 sq ft of retail space, anchored by the John Lewis store. It will also feature a multi-screen cinema, a 214-room hotel and 150 private apartments and is due for completion in 2020.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service confirmed firefighters were called to the new St James site shortly before 3.35pm.

Thick black palls of smoke could be seen for miles around.

Thick black palls of smoke could be seen for miles around.

They confirmed a compressed air cylinder had caught fire and that one appliance had been sent to deal with the incident from McDonald Road station.

The fire was extinguished before 4pm and work on the site resumed shortly afterwards. No one was injured as a result of the blaze.

Images sent to the Evening News by readers showed flames licking up inside the shell of the building as fire crews arrived on the scene.

In January, MoD bomb disposal units spent more than three hours at the site following the discovery of a “large metal object” initially believed to be historic ammunition.

Workers at the St James centre development. SNP delegates will debate a motion to back a four-day working week at next month's party conference

Workers at the St James centre development. SNP delegates will debate a motion to back a four-day working week at next month's party conference

At least six police vehicles, three fire appliances and two ambulances, including a “special operations team” attended the scene, while access to the Bus Station and nearby Multrees Walk shopping street was closed off in the interest of public safety.

Crews were stood down after it was found the spherical object was actually an ornament from a wall that had been in place before the previous St James’ Centre was built in 1973.

Demolition work on the former building began in October 2016, with the final completion date for the project - including the opening of the distinctive five-star ‘ribbon-inspired’ W hotel - due for 2021.

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The fire on site. Pic: Contributed

The fire on site. Pic: Contributed

Workers were evacuated. Pic: Neil Hanna

Workers were evacuated. Pic: Neil Hanna

Another image of the blaze. Pic: contributed

Another image of the blaze. Pic: contributed