Residents rescued as fire started in stairwell

Kamila Kowalska
Kamila Kowalska
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A COUPLE today told how they were forced to escape through a living room window after being trapped in their home by firebugs.

Husband and wife Miroslaw and Katarzyna Bielecka were rescued from their first floor flat by fire crews after the blaze in the stairwell at the three- storey tenement on West Pilton Grove. Five other adults and two children, a two-year-old boy and a one-year-old girl, had to be rescued.

Fire damage in the stairwell following the blaze

Fire damage in the stairwell following the blaze

They were taken to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children by ambulance, accompanied by their parents, where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

Police said the fire was started deliberately. Residents said the lock on the front door to the block had been broken for years.

Mrs Bielecka, 45, who is originally from Poland and works as a cleaner in Tranent, said: “I was awake because I was starting work early.

“It was very frightening and very dangerous, it was so hot in the stair. My pulse was beating very fast. I just wanted to be outside.

“I smelt smoke and opened the door but I couldn’t go into the stair because there was so much smoke and it was very hot. I wanted to wake the neighbours up but I couldn’t. I closed the door and woke up my husband. I panicked and couldn’t remember the number for the fire service.”

Ewa and Peter Kowalska, both 46, and their 18-year-old daughter Kamila were woken up after smelling smoke.

With help from firefighters, the family – who are originally from Lublin in Poland – were able to walk down the stairs but all three were taken to the Royal Infirmary by ambulance. They were treated for smoke inhalation and released around two hours later.

The fire broke out just before 5am on Saturday.

The family said they no longer felt safe in their flat, where they have lived for the last two years and which has suffered smoke damaged in the fire.

Mrs Kowalska, a mother-of-two who works at a meat factory in Broxburn, said: “We were scared. Now when I close my eyes, I see the fire.

“I can’t live in this house. I don’t know what else could happen. The [main] door’s not locked, anybody could come in.

“We were robbed one year ago. I entered my house to find the laptop, video camera and gold jewellery all gone. I was very distressed.”

Kamila, a sixth year pupil at Trinity Academy, added: “We want to leave here. There’s smoke in our flat and the smell is still here, and it’s maybe poisonous for our health.”

The stairwell was badly smoke-damaged in the fire, with the communal lights melting under the intense heat and several windows in the close smashing.

Grandmother-of-one Sharon Grieve, 47, has lived in her first floor flat for almost 12 years.

Miss Grieve said: “I heard someone shouting ‘fire’ so I got up and looked out the back window, and I could see flames. “It took the firefighters 20 minutes to get the smoke out of the stair. It was pitch black and one of the firefighters took me down the stairs.”

Miss Grieve, who lives with her partner Lewis Gray, 45, added: “It was arson. I’ve not got a clue why someone would start a fire, I don’t think we will ever find out. The firefighters had to kick one of the other resident’s doors in because he was sleeping.”

Her daughter Dion Reid, 23, who lives in Telford and was visiting her mum with her six-year-old son William Halliday yesterday, added: “It could’ve been worse if they hadn’t woken up.”

Around six hours earlier firefighters attended a blaze on the ground floor of a four-storey villa in Stuart Terrace, Bathgate, at 10.40pm on Friday night. A one-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy were taken to St John’s Hospital along with a 31-year-old woman, all suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

All of the residents had escaped the property before the fire crews arrived.