Students, parents and children were among those rescued from the upper floors of the Rankeillor Street building by firefighters after a blaze broke out in the basement, destroying a dentist's surgery. A total of 12 people were treated for smoke inhalation caused by the blaze.
At the height of the incident more than 40 firefighters and 10 appliances were at the scene while police cordoned off sections of nearby South Clerk Street in Newington.
Eyewitnesses described smoke pouring from the building as fire crews used a turntable ladder to rescue some trapped residents from the upper floors.
Firefighters had to smash their way into the Unico stationery shop on the corner of the block to battle the blaze as it spread through neighbouring buildings.
The fire originated in the basement and spread to the dentist surgery, destroying the two main surgery theatres and causing at least £90,000 worth of damage, the owners said.
Eyewitness student Adam Smith said: "Smoke was pouring from the building as the crews arrived. They used a 50-foot turntable ladder to get to the people on the upstairs floor. I saw one child being rescued and he looked pretty shaken."
Teams of six firefighters searched the building and the fire took until 2am to bring under control.
Investigating officers were on the scene this morning and police are now probing the blaze.
Dentist owner Dave Gilchrist said homeless people had been staying in the basement, which adjoins the dentist to the tenement next door, and had been removed by police on several occasions, the most recent of which was several days ago.
He said: "We've had a problem with this for a while, with a number of people being removed by police just a few days ago. There was bedding everywhere and it wouldn't surprise me if that was the cause of the fire.
"We were expecting 40 patients today and 98 per cent of them are NHS and it'll be a real struggle to get up and running."
A police spokesman said it was too early to say if the cause of the fire was suspicious.
By RORY REYNOLDS
Source: Edinburgh Evening News
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