INVESTIGATIONS are under way into the cause of a blaze which saw 73 elderly patients rushed from their beds after a fire broke out at the Astley Ainslie Hospital.
Twenty-two patients within the Miles Ward of the Balfour Pavilion were transferred to the city’s Corstorphine Hospital while another 21 patients were decanted to nearby wards within the campus.
Alarm bells rang in the elderly rehabilitation ward as thick black, acrid smoke filled the air just after 5pm.
The actions of the ward sister have been praised, as it is understood she discovered the blaze and her swift reactions resulted in staff quickly evacuating the ward of patients.
An emergency worker on the scene said: “We are so lucky, so many people were in bed and so many of them are immobile. The response was incredibly rapid, it could have been a lot worse as there was really thick, black smoke. You couldn’t see a thing, it was very scary for all involved.”
A catering employee from the adjacent Blackford Pavillion said: “The first thing I knew about it was when the fire engines came screaming around the corner.
“You could see the smoke billowing out, as the firemen in breathing masks ran in. The building stands on its own so thankfully the rest of the hospital hasn’t had to be evacuated too.”
In total 12 fire engines and more than 50 crew raced to the scene and their swift response had brought the drama to an end by 6.16pm.
A fleet of ambulances then ferried patients to Corstorphine and other wards.
The remaining 30 patients were eventually returned to their beds within the facility.
NHS Lothian director of finance, Susan Goldsmith, said: “Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service were called to put out the fire and they are now investigating the cause.
“Thanks to the quick response from our staff and the Fire and Rescue Service, 73 patients were safely evacuated and no-one was injured.
“I would like to thank all NHS Lothian staff who helped manage this incident and ensure that patients were cared for safely and effectively throughout.”
A spokeswoman for the fire service said: “We are currently unsure where the fire started. When firefighters arrived there was a lot of thick smoke that was travelling upwards, so it could have spread quite rapidly.
“We had six firefighters in breathing apparatus who quickly located and extinguished the seat of the fire. It was a well developed fire with a lot of very toxic smoke, and it was spreading.
“All emergency crews have done an excellent job and the evacuations were very quick.”
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police responded to a respite hospital in the south of Edinburgh following reports of a fire.
“Enquiries are now under way to determine the full circumstances surrounding this fire and anyone with information that can assist police is asked to come forward immediately.”