Plaque honours firefighter who died in city blaze

The plaque has been unveiled at Benson's Bar (formerly the Balmoral Bar) on Dalry Road.
The plaque has been unveiled at Benson's Bar (formerly the Balmoral Bar) on Dalry Road.
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A plaque has been unveiled in honour of heroic firefighter Ewan Williamson at the city bar where he gave his life in the line of duty battling a massive blaze.

Ewan, 35, died in July 2009 after becoming trapped while tackling an inferno at the Balmoral Bar on Dalry Road.

Ewan Williamson

Ewan Williamson

He and a colleague were following a hose line out of the burning building when they became separated and he found himself trapped above the fire’s source.

Colleagues desperately hacked through nine layers of steel mesh, metal plates, bars, rails, iron and panelling to try to reach him.

Having valiantly tried to rescue him from inside due to collapsing floors, they battled to cut through an old, boarded-up toilet window from the outside – but by the time they got to him it was too late.

Family, friends and colleagues gathered on Thursday for the unveiling of a red plaque, funded by the Firefighters 100 Lottery, in Ewan’s honour at the bar where he lost his life, now named Benson’s Bar, nine years to the day since his death.

Ewan’s mum Linda Williamson told the Evening News: “He died in his line of work which he loved. He was a very caring young man, loved by everyone.

“We were devastated and we’ve had to build our lives again which has been very difficult.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service identified “critical” changes that needed to be made following his death.

The service was fined £54,000 in 2015 after admitting health and safety breaches that contributed to his death.

A year later the SFRS published a report into the incident containing a series of lessons and recommendations.

They included the urgent need for a policy on the use of breathing apparatus, tactical ventilation of buildings and improved communication.

In an emotional statement on behalf of the family, Ewan’s sister Rebecca said: “Our lives fell apart when Ewan was tragically killed in the line of duty. At that time we did not know who to turn to and where to find the support.

“The love and support from our family, friends and the people from Edinburgh helped us through these tough times.

“Without the support of the Fire Brigade Union, not just in 2009 but through the last nine years, we could not have got justice for Ewan.

“We are proud to unveil the first red plaque scheme in Scotland for Ewan. It is a fitting tribute to the ultimate sacrifice he paid to save lives and protect his community. We hope his legacy will make firefighters safer for the future.”

Ewan is the only firefighter in the history of the old Lothian and Borders Fire Service to die in the line of duty. The red plaque scheme is run by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and aims to honour firefighters killed in the line of duty.

Denise Christie from FBU Scotland, said: “Ewan made the ultimate sacrifice while keeping his community safe. It is an honour to unveil the plaque with his family.

“I am sure it will bring them great comfort to know that nine years after his death he is very much remembered. Ewan’s family and friends will be in all of our thoughts on this anniversary.”

kieran.murray@jpress.co.uk