Bungling workmen are believed to have caused a major fire scare after setting alight the roof of a luxury New Town hotel.
Worried residents were sent scurrying into the street after a roofer’s blowtorch is understood to have started the blaze and exploded a gas cylinder.
Quick-thinking staff evacuated the 28-room Nira Caledonia in Gloucester Place yesterday afternoon with no injuries reported.
“I saw the flames coming out of the roof and a lot of thick black smoke,” said retired chartered surveyor and neighbour John Fowler, 66.
“Then I heard a very, very loud explosion. There was no debris, just the noise.”
About 20 firefighters and five engines were called to the four-storey converted Georgian townhouse at 2.50pm.
Workmen on scaffolding are believed to have set alight a joist while working on the roof – causing a fire which exploded the cylinder.
Flames were seen leaping from the roof of the hotel and a thick, black plume of smoke billowed across the skyline.
Workers themselves rushed downstairs to alert hotel staff who leapt into action evacuating guests and neighbours.
Concierge Zolton Kajos, 31, said: “It was very smoky and we heard a bang like a bomb going off. The alarm went off and we were making sure everybody got out.
“I went round to the neighbours knocking on doors too to explain the situation and that it was a real fire on top of the building.”
Head chef Gordon Inglis, 51, added: “The alarm went off and I just thought it was someone having a cigarette in their room but soon realised it was real and made sure all the guests got out.”
Cobbled crescent Gloucester Place was designed in 1823 by renowned architect William Playfair.
The boutique hotel Nira Caledonia – former home of writer and friend of William Wordsworth, John Wilson – had been busy over the Festival.
But it was at less than capacity yesterday after a large party of German tourists checked out and returned home.
The extent of the damage to the hotel was still unknown yesterday as police helped firefighters cordon off Gloucester Place.
Staff and patients at the nearby Stockbridge Health Centre, in India Place, were also evacuated as a precaution.
Plans were being put in place yesterday afternoon to find alternative accommodation for hotel guests if needed.
Guest Elaine Yadlon had just flown in from New Jersey for some sightseeing in the Old Town.
“I arrived this morning about 8am and just dropped off my bags before going to see the Castle and Royal Mile,” said the facilities manager for Thomson Reuters.
“I hope my bags are OK or else I’ve got no clothes to wear,” added Ms Yadlon, 55. “I’m only staying here tonight but I don’t know what will happen now.”
Ms Yadlon is visiting with a 16-strong Nordic Visitor tour, all thought to be staying at the Nira Caledonia, before heading to the Highlands and Skye.
“It’s my first time in Scotland and it’s really nice – except they’ve burned my clothes,” she joked.