On 28th March 1960, the Cheapside Street district of Glasgow awoke to disaster.

28 February 2023 by Kirsty Lavell, Marketing Manager

Early in the morning a fire had broken out in a whisky bonded warehouse on Cheapside Street, threatening to rip through the neighbourhood and engulf its citizens. 19 firefighters and crew died tackling a warehouse blaze in what was the biggest loss of life to the Fire Service in peacetime. 

Reports of smoke emanating from a warehouse's second-floor window prompted a 999 call ; to the fire service, and 2 pumps and a turntable ladder were initially dispatched at 7.15pm. At the height of the fire, there were more than 450 firefighters in attendance, and every fire engine in the city had been called in to fight the fire.   

The building housed a million gallons of whiskey in 21,000 casks and 30,000 gallons of rum. The fire caused these sprits to boil, and some of the casks ruptured under the heat and created a massive fire ball. This is technically known as a massive boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion (BLEVE). A BLEVE occurs when a vessel containing a liquid is heated beyond its boiling point, as was the case in this incident when the casks of whiskey boiled then ruptured and the subsequent vapour ignited. 

The fire and explosion could be seen across the entire city, bright blue flames leapt 40 feet into the air, a deafening roar erupted in the city, as firefighters and salvage crews scrambled to put out the flames. 

In all 14 firemen and 5 salvage men were killed that night, when the explosion, which blew apart the front and rear walls of the building, caused huge amounts of brickwork to collapse into the street. Three fire appliances were also buried in the falling masonry.  The fire took over a week to put out. 

A memorial to those who lost their lives was placed at the bottom of Cheapside Street in 2010.