Looking back – the tar works fire in 1973

A fireman tackles the blaze at the Scottish Tar Distillers' plant at Camelon near Falkirk in November 1973
A fireman tackles the blaze at the Scottish Tar Distillers' plant at Camelon near Falkirk in November 1973

In 1973 the Falkirk district witnessed one of its most dramatic events when a tar works went up in flames.

Sixty firemen were injured as they tackled a dramatic blaze at the tar works in Camelon in November 1973 after the fire began when a tanker unloading petrol burst into flames.

Flames and smoke billowing from the fire at the Scottish Tar Distillers' plant at Camelon near Falkirk in November 1973

Flames and smoke billowing from the fire at the Scottish Tar Distillers' plant at Camelon near Falkirk in November 1973

A massive plume of thick black smoke could be seen for miles around and as the 120 employees raced to safety, the firm’s fire team moved in to tackle the blaze.

They were quickly joined by units from Falkirk but, as flames spread, 100 men and 16 machines raced in from all parts of Central Scotland.

Here’s an extract from The Falkirk Herald at the time:

Falkirk is planning to honour the heroes of Stirlingshire’s worst blaze this century.

More than 100 firefighters were called on to bring under control the blaze which ripped through Camelon’s tar works causing £2 million worth of damage.

Provost William Feeney said: “It is only right that their tremendous courage should receive recognition. I will be recommending that the men who worked so hard to bring this terrible blaze under control should be honoured. I will be discussing the matter with my colleagues to see what the most appropriate way to mark their magnificent effort shall take.”

A probe by fire experts was launched shortly after the fire was brought under control and led to improved fire fighting measures at the factory.

Firefighters were hampered in their efforts to bring the blaze under control when water from the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal could not be used because it was polluted by gallons of tar pouring from exploding storage tanks.

More than 60 firefighters were injured tackling the blaze.