Heroic Scots nurse rescued elderly neighbour from burning building

Edinburgh heroes have told of the moment they ran into a burning blaze to rescue their elderly neighbour.

Garrie Neill, an NHS nurse who had been walking his dog as the fire broke out before 8am on Tuesday morning, ran into the Gorgie lat alongside another local.

Firefighters quickly raced to Slateford Gait and attempted to get the blaze under control.

An entirely normal morning for Neill quickly became a rescue mission when he became aware of the fire, which he told Edinburgh Live he would never have noticed without his 13-year-old Yorkie, Macie.

The blaze broke out at a block of flats on Slateford Gait around 8am on Tuesday
The blaze broke out at a block of flats on Slateford Gait around 8am on Tuesday

“I was walking my dog and the route we do is just round here,” he said.

“We’d already been round once but for some reason my wee dog decided to come back round again. She’s never done that before. If she hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have even spotted the fire.

The blaze, which was described as “well-developed” by a source on site, quickly engulfed the bottom floor flat, although the extent of the situation wasn’t initially obvious to Neill.

“I thought someone had burned their breakfast. But as I looked closer and saw the black smoke I knew something wasn’t right. All I could think about was whether someone was in there,” the 41-year old said.

“My neighbour came out too and we could both see the black smoke. Then we heard someone shouting for help.

When we headed down, we went to the patio door and you couldn’t even see inside because of the smoke. Eventually we could see the chap in his pyjamas on the floor.”

The heroic pair then dragged the man to safety, with the other man lifting their elderly neighbour onto his shoulders while Neill hoisted him over the balcony.

“The biggest credit I want to give is to the guy who physically lifted him on his shoulders. I didn’t have the strength to do that.

“The heat was really intense. I’ve never been near a fire like that. It was a horrible smell. I’ve never seen smoke that powerful before. It went from a small amount to fully up in less than a minute – it was really strong.”

While a source told Edinburgh Live that the move was potentially lifesaving for the man believed to be in his 60s, Neill doesn’t see himself as a hero.

“I’d like to think someone would do that for me. It’s a really good community. I’ve lived in other areas in Edinburgh that are not as friendly – it’s a good place to live.”

Many worried neighbours poured out of their flats to escape danger or to check on the damages inflicted by the blaze.

Anna Kanclerz and Luca Mester, who live two floors directly above the flame-engulfed flat, played a vital role in helping those placed in danger.

Mester said: “It looked like fog but it wasn’t a foggy day. I opened the balcony window and could clearly smell smoke. I shouted that we needed to get out.”

“Someone asked if anyone had called the fire brigade, and when I realised no one had I phoned them right away. They got here seven minutes late.

It was picking up really quickly and it just gave me the urge to get away.”

Meanwhile, her flatmate Kanclerz, who she met while studying in Aberdeen, had the opposite reaction.

Kanclerz said: “It made me want to notify the neighbours. I ran back to shout ‘fire, fire’ and managed to get a few neighbours out. It seemed like everyone evacuated safely.

Scottish Fire and Rescue confirmed that a man was taken to hospital this morning after a fire in Slateford Gait.

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