Jenners fire: What we know so far about the Edinburgh city centre blaze
The fire happened on Monday morning at the landmark former department store building
A fire broke out at Edinburgh's iconic Jenners building in Princes Street on the morning of Monday, January 23, with flames and smoke seen billowing from the windows of the landmark building. Firefighters raced to the scene shortly before 11.30am, with South St David Street closed in both directions between St Andrew’s Square and Princes Street. A total of 22 appliances and other specialist resources were sent to the scene at the fire's height. Marks and Spencer and the Mercure Hotel, on Princes Street, were closed as firefighters worked in the neighbouring former department store, and other buildings in the area were evacuated.
Firefighter fighting for his life
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has now announced that five firefighters involved in the incident have been taken to hospital, with one said to be “in a critical condition”. The other four firefighters have now thankfully been discharged from hospital.
Firefighters remain at scene
Firefighters are still at Jenners, Speaking on Monday evening, Ross Haggart, the service’s interim chief officer, said: "We currently remain at the scene with a total of 11 appliances and other specialist resources in attendance.”
Eyewitnesses told the Evening News about what they saw when they encountered the scene in the city centre. Terri Campbell, who is visiting the city from South Ayrshire, saw the smoke at around 12.40pm. She said: "I got off the bus and I saw smoke coming out of the building, there was just people everywhere, a lot of emergency services.”
Ether Abbot added: “I saw all the motorbikes and all the fire engines, and all the smoke. There were lots of people out on the road watching. And people were evacuated from the surrounding shops.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "At around 11.35am on Monday, January 23, police were called to assist Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with road closures following a fire within a building on South St David Street, Edinburgh. Police and emergency services are currently at the scene. A number of roads have been closed in the surrounding area as a result. Please avoid the area if possible and heed advice re alternative routes. No further details at this time."
Building work is believed to have been underway to convert the top of the building into a hotel. The former department store closed its doors in December 2020 due to the Covid lockdown, with then owners House of Fraser vacating the building the following May. The former 17,000sqm department store is due to be turned into a 96-bedroom boutique hotel, together with a bar and restaurant, above overhauled retail areas, according to planning documents submitted to the council. The property company behind the project, AAA United – owned by fashion billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, has been contacted by the Evening News regarding how the fire has affected the plans.
Major city centre roads were closed to traffic following the blaze at Jenners building on Princes Street, with motorists told to avoid the area. South St David Street was closed in both directions between St Andrew’s Square and Princes Street. Traffic Scotland confirmed St Andrew’s Square, George Street at St Andrew’s Square and Rose Street were also closed. All these roads remained closed as of 7pm on Monday, January 23.
City of Edinburgh Council leader Cammy Day praised firefighters for their "speedy and brave response". "It's so sad to see a fire at one of Edinburgh's most iconic buildings," he said.
"Council officers remain on the scene and are supporting the emergency services and those affected by the fire."
Elena Whitham, Scotland's community safety minister, said her thoughts were with the firefighters and their families. "Their sheer bravery and professionalism must be commended," she said.
"Scotland's communities are lucky to have our valued firefighters who stand ready to put their personal safety at risk in order to save others. We will continue to monitor the situation closely."