December 7, 2002
The Cowgate is a street in Edinburgh, Scotland, part of the lower level of Edinburgh's Old Town, which is partly built around the elevated streets of South Bridge and George IV Bridge. At eight o'clock on the evening of December 7, 2002, a fire started above a nightclub in the street. It quickly took hold, spreading to buildings on the South Bridge, lighting up the sky for miles around, and blanketing the city with acrid smoke. The fire was difficult to control as it spread through the uncharted vaults beneath the South Bridge. The fire claimed no lives, but destroyed many buildings, including much of the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics and the Gilded Balloon comedy club. 19 fire crews in total attended the blaze, the majority from Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade. It took over a day to bring the fire completely under control. Two main transport arteries, the Cowgate and South Bridge, remained closed for several days following the fire. One of the world's most comprehensive archival libraries in artificial intelligence was destroyed when the School of Informatics burned in the fire.