The Courier

‘I was one of the last people to leave’: Husband rescued wife from huge Hilltown Market blaze

Fire crews battled a third major blaze in Dundee in as many nights as flames ripped through the Hilltown Indoor Market and Fit 4 Less gym on Wednesday evening.

More than 60 firefighters and nine appliances raced to the scene after the alarm was raised around 6pm.

Flames were seen leaping into the air and plumes of black smoke billowed across the city skyline for the third night in a row.

Brian Hickman, 65, rushed into the building after seeing the smoke to warn his wife, Vanessa, and the rest of her exercise class, that a serious fire was about to engulf the building.

After first being told there was “no need to evacuate” he interrupted the gym class just as the lights failed and the alarm sounded.

“I told the girl behind the front desk and she said she had been told it was nothing serious. I said I had to find my wife and went into the gym. I could smell smoke and I didn’t know where I was going,” he said.

“When I went in they said what’s happening and I said there’s a fire you have to get out. With that the siren went out and there were no lights or anything.

“People were using their phones for light. Everybody got out and I was one of the last people to leave the building.”

Courier reader Tam Harkin sent these aerial photos showing the extent of the blaze:

It is believed the fire began when an old, two-seater couch was set on fire next to the building.


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Mr Hickman said he saw “four boys, typical youth of today in hoodies with their hands in their pockets” go round the corner just minutes before the blaze broke out.

Around 15 people fled the exercise class, along with several more who had been using other parts of the gym.

Kerri Taylor, 31, was working in the Snug Bar across the road, and called the emergency services when she saw “black smoke coming from what looked like a two-seater couch.”

“The fire spread through the building in about 10 minutes, I think. Of course it was frightening. We saw the smoke and everyone knew that it was going right through to the gym.”

Corinne Thain, 32, a support worker, was trapped in the Snug Bar, unable to go home as her car was parked in front of the building and her keys were left inside the gym in the rush to flee the fire.

“I’m a single mum and I can’t get home. I’m gutted and I’ve been sat here crying,” she said.

The blaze followed serious fires at Braeview Academy on Tuesday and at Balmydown Farm at Strathmartine on Monday.