EAGLE-EYED visitors dropping in to see us at the Glasgow Times offices in Renfield Street might wonder about the small plaque on the pathway leading up to our front doors.

It is part of a fascinating and moving heritage trail, which highlights the sites around the city where firefighters have lost their lives over the years.

Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the trail’s beginnings, when - as part of the preparations for the 50th anniversary of one of the city’s worst fires - the decision was taken to place suitable markers on those sites.

The Firefighters’ Heritage Trail, made possible by £54,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, was unveiled three years later to great acclaim.

Memorial plaques have been set into the pavement at sites around the city where firefighters died on duty including the one on Renfield Street, which commemorates James Hastie, John Battersby, David Smith and Charles Orr, four firefighters who lost their lives in the collapse of a burning chemical works at 152-170 Renfield Street on January 7, 1898.

It was on March 28, 1960 when 14 firefighters and five salvage corps officers died as a result of a massive explosion at a distillery and whisky storage facility.

Glasgow Times:

It remains the largest peacetime loss of life ever suffered by Britain’s fire and rescue services and it is remembered each year with a special memorial service.

The 19 men were fighting a huge fire at a whisky warehouse in Cheapside Street, when an explosion sent the building’s 60ft walls crashing into the street.

The Glasgow firefighters who died were James Calder, John McPherson, John Allan, Christopher Boyle, Gordon Chapman, William Crocket, Archibald Darroch, Daniel Davidson, Alfred Dickinson, Alexander Grassie, George McIntyre, Edward McMillan, Ian McMillan and William Watson.

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The Glasgow Salvage Corps members were Edward Murray, James McLellan, Gordon McMillan, James Mungall and William Oliver.

In recent years, our heroic firefighters have had to tackle huge fires on Sauchiehall Street and at Glasgow School of Art but massive blazes are less common than they were when Glasgow was known as Tinderbox City.

Glasgow Times:

On May 18, 1957, the Riverside Milling Company on Shearer Street in Govan, was devastated in a fire which eventually cost the company - one of the biggest flour companies in Scotland – a million pounds.

Its building was near houses, and 64 families fled as blasts shook the area.

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The flames were discovered just before 38 night shift workers were due to go off duty. Thankfully, they escaped, some of them doing so by sliding down chutes normally used to ship bags of flour to the freight yard.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow’s deadliest fire was the notorious James Watt Street inferno in 1968.

Twenty-two lives were lost, including 15-year-old Elizabeth Taylor and her mother Mary, when the former whisky bond premises burned down.

Those who died found themselves trapped or overcome by poisonous fumes inside the three-storey building, which housed the Stern upholstery factory and glass making business G Bryce.

Fire broke out at around 10.30am – an inquiry found it was probably caused by carelessly discarded smoking materials on the mezzanine - and horrified eyewitnesses watched helplessly as people, trapped behind iron-barred windows in the upper floors of the burning building, screamed for help, beating the windows with furniture in a vain attempt to escape. The intensity of the blaze and the dense smoke made rescue efforts impossible and firefighters who entered the building found that fire-escape doors had been padlocked from the inside.

The tragedy shocked Scotland and led to major changes in fire safety in factories.