HE remains the only firefighter to have lost his life in the line of duty while serving in the ranks of Scotland's oldest fire brigade.

Fireman Ewan Williamson was overcome by smoke as his crew tackled a fire in a burning pub in Edinburgh nine years ago, with his death leading to the way the fire service conducts dangerous operations.

Now the bravery shown by the 35-year-old - the only firefighter to have died in service throughout the 189-year history of the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade - is to be honoured with the dedication of a plaque in his memory.

READ MORE: Fire service admit safety breaches over death of firefighter


Hundreds attended Mr Williamsons' funeral

Firefighter Williamson's family will watch on as the 'Red Plaque' memorial is unveiled today at Benson’s Bar - formerly the Balmoral Bar - on the capital's Dalry Road, the place where, on 12 July 2009, he paid the ultimate price in order to keep the public safe.

The red plaque scheme is run by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and aims to honour firefighters killed in the line of duty. It is funded solely from proceeds of the Firefighters 100 Lottery.

Denise Christie, regional secretary of the FBU in Scotland, said: “Ewan made the ultimate sacrifice while keeping his community safe. It will be an honour to unveil the plaque with his family there. I am sure it will bring them great comfort to know that nine years after his death that he is very much remembered.

"Ewan’s family and friends will be in all of our thoughts on this anniversary.”

Firefighter Williamson was among several crews sent to the bar after it was reported that a blaze had broken out in the building's basement office just before one in the morning.

READ MORE: Hundreds pay respects at Edinburgh firefighter's funeral

While other firefighters were tasked with evacuating the buildings above, he and three colleagues donned breathing kits and were dispatched inside in two teams to search for the source of the fire.


According to a report into his death, the interior of the building was choked with thick smoke and visibility was reduced to almost zero.

Firefighters found their visors were being covered with soot within seconds, and the heat from the blaze was intense, increasing as they made their way downstairs.

Working amid horrendous conditions, they were unable to find where the flames were coming from and decided to retreat.

Firefighter Williamson and his teammate made their way outside after 22 minutes, following a hose which had been reeled down into the basement.

However, they were tasked with returning to the basement, and when they were beaten back by the heat a second time, the doomed fireman took a wrong turn and found himself trapped in the pub's toilet.

Despite attempts to rescue him - which saw one of his colleagues almost plunge through the floor of the building as it collapsed into the flames below, he lost consciousness after radioing a last message that he was stuck.

READ MORE: Fire Service 'abandoned family' of Ewan Williamson, mother of firefighter who died on duty claims

Fellow crew members spent half an hour desperately hacking through nine layers of steel mesh, metal plates, bars, rails, iron and panelling to recover his body.

Having failed to rescue him from inside due to the 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.


The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was later fined 54,000 after admitting health and safety breaches that contributed to his death, and vowed to make "critical" changes its policy on the use of breathing apparatus, tactical ventilation of buildings wile introducing improved communications.

Linda Williamson, firefighter Williamson's mother, said that the plaque was a fitting tribute to her son's sacrifice.

She said: "The family are all extremely proud that Ewan will be honoured and remembered by the Fire Brigades Union Red Plaque Scheme.

"It is a fitting tribute to the sacrifice he made to save others. We would like to thank the FBU for all the support they have given us over the years and are very grateful for the kindness and generosity. Ewan will forever be in our thoughts."