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We remember the real-life Disco Inferno which gutted Dundee’s space-age Fountain nightclub 35 years ago

The Fountain Club fire.
The Fountain Club fire.

It was the real-life Disco Inferno in Dundee which almost brought the house down.

The Fountain opened in December 1983 at the same time as rivals Fat Sam’s and was the first club to have lasers as part of the lightshow.

Fountain Disco in 1984.

But tragedy struck 35 years ago around 6.30pm on June 25 1985 when fire ripped through the upper floor of the Brown Street venue which caused extensive damage and completely destroyed the roof.

The Fountain – which was Scottish Disco of the Year in 1984 – was closed at the time but shortly before the alarm was raised workmen had been in another part of the building redecorating the main disco on a lower floor.

Eight appliances raced to the scene and firefighters had to break open the door to gain entry but were repeatedly beaten back by thick palls of choking smoke.

Police closed off Brown Street, Miln Street and Douglas Street to traffic while a hydraulic platform was hoisted above the roof.

Firefighters began hacking off slates with axes while training jets of water onto the flames from above.

Firefighters in the nightclub following the fire.

Police stopped the public from entering Brown Street where debris was falling into the roadway.

Dense smoke at times reduced visibility to zero.

Another 20 sets of breathing apparatus had to be sent to the scene from fire brigade headquarters in Blackness Road to supplement the apparatus already on hand.

Fountain owner Denis Watson and his finance director Betty Hand made a 20-mile dash to the scene from Mrs Hand’s home in Glamis where police alerted them.

They could only look on helplessly as smoke poured out of the roof while 34 firefighters tackled the blaze at its height.

The roof, where expensive video equipment was stored, was completely destroyed in the blaze which gutted the attics and resulted in extensive smoke and water damage to the floors below.

Firemen inspect the interior of the former Fountain disco on Brown Street.

In the video lounge, large monitors were completely melted by the intense heat.

Carpets and fittings throughout the building were completely destroyed by smoke and water.

Loss assessor David Dalston drove through the night from his Yorkshire home after a 1am phone call from Mr Watson.

The Fountain was insured for £1 million and the repair bill would be well into six figures.

Dundee CID investigated the blaze but there were no suspicious circumstances.

The Fountain in 1986 just before reopening.

The Fountain fire caused a major last-minute disappointment to 500 teenagers who had been looking forward for months to a triple 18th birthday celebration.

Firefighters had to make an emergency dash back to the scene just 24 hours after the blaze.

The cause of the smoke was found to be a bag of rubbish from the blaze which had smouldered to life again.

Firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control without any further damage to the stricken building.

The Fountain remained closed for several months following repairs before reopening in April 1986 after Mr Watson spent £160,000 on improvements to the interior.

The club returned just as Fat Sams — and more importantly the Dance Factory — started working its oracle on the Dundee music scene.

Fat Sams suddenly became the place to be while the Fountain changed its name and became Dirty Den’s which opened in 1988 with admission £7.50 and a free bar the whole night through.

Dirty Harry star Clint Eastwood was among the pictures hanging in the reception area of ‘Dirty’ Oscars.

The club later changed its name to Oscars (fondly remembered as Dirty Oscars), then the Colosseum, and most recently Oxygen, before closing down for good.

Oscars dancefloor.

The fire which ripped through the venue in 1985 was the sixth nightclub blaze in Tayside in as many years at a total cost of over £1 million.

The largest was at the Planets nightspot in Montrose in June 1983 which was burned to the ground causing £450,000 damage.

In May 1984, Rick’s Disco, in Blackscroft, which was the former library, was gutted in a £200,000 blaze.

The Star Hotel, one of the oldest in Montrose, was badly damaged in January 1984, near the end of expensive alterations.

Oscars pictured in 1995.

Damage was estimated at £170,000.

In 1980 the Palais in South Tay Street was burned to the ground following a ferocious blaze.

The legendary venue had played host to the likes of David Bowie and the Bee Gees and was also the setting for the famous Dundee “monkey parade” which was a Sunday night highlight for teenagers in the 1960s.