Firefighter dies after battling blaze at Jenners building in Edinburgh

Barry Martin, 38, was one of five firefighters taken to hospital after fire at historic Edinburgh building

A firefighter who was critically injured earlier this week while fighting a blaze at the historic Jenners building in Edinburgh has died.

Police Scotland said Barry Martin, 38, from Fife, died on Friday at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Emergency services had been called to the former department store, in Princes Street on Monday morning.

Supt David Robertson, of Edinburgh division, said: “Our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues of Barry at this very difficult time.

“Our inquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, who represents Edinburgh Western at Holyrood, said that Martin should be awarded the George Cross. The MSP, who also leads the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said the firefighter’s actions “went above and beyond the call of duty”.

“They deserve the highest standard of civilian praise and recognition,” he said. “I will be making representations for Barry to be awarded the George Cross posthumously in honour of his extraordinary bravery. Where we run from danger, those like Barry run towards it, endeavouring to keep us safe.”

Martin was one of five firefighters taken to hospital after the blaze.

Two were treated for burns and two for smoke inhalation and have since been discharged.

A police officer was also taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation and later released.

Firefighters had been called to the building at about 11.30am on Monday.

Roads were shut in the vicinity as crews tackled the flames, which were seen coming out of the basement area.

At its height, 22 fire engines were sent to the scene, with more than 100 firefighters battling the blaze.

Marks & Spencer and the Mercure hotel on Princes Street were closed and other buildings in the area were evacuated.

Ross Haggart, the Scottish fire and rescue service’s interim chief officer, described the fire as “very serious and complex”.

“I speak for the entire service when I say that we are all devastated by the loss of Barry and our thoughts remain with his family, friends and colleagues at this deeply distressing time,” he said.

“Both Barry’s family and the service have been overwhelmed with the messages of support we have received and we thank everyone for the time they have taken to share these.

“Barry’s family would also like to thank all the medical staff who have cared for him.”

Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said Martin was a “dedicated firefighter and a well-loved member of the firefighting community”.

“Like so many firefighters, he put himself at risk to save the lives of others,” he added.

Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This is dreadfully sad news.

My deepest condolences go to Barry’s family, friends and colleagues.

“This is a terrible tragedy for all who loved him – but also a reminder of the selfless courage our firefighters demonstrate in the line of duty each and every day.”

Martin was the first Scottish firefighter to die while on duty since Ewan Williamson, who died after being injured at the Balmoral Bar in Edinburgh in 2009.

Founded in 1838, the department store was one of the oldest in the world when it closed its doors in 2021.

The category A-listed current building dates to 1895, after a fire destroyed the original.

Renovations had been under way to transform the upper floors into a hotel, with retail use, restaurants and cafes at the lower levels, and a new roof-top bar.

The project was backed by a firm owned by the Danish fashion billionaire, Anders Holch Povlsen.

The revamp had been expected to take about four years.


Jane Clinton

The GuardianTramp

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