Residents speak of terror as blaze guts Edinburgh stairwell

Ronnie Arpino in the gutted stairwell. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Ronnie Arpino in the gutted stairwell. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

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A YOUNG man has told how he and his girlfriend were forced to jump from their first-floor flat as fire raged within their stairwell.

Ryan Sutherland, 21, and Kelly Clark, 24, of Captain’s Drive, were confronted with a wall of flames and acrid smoke as they attempted to flee the property.

Ryan Sutherland had to jump from the first floor to escape. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Ryan Sutherland had to jump from the first floor to escape. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Kelly was blown off her feet when she opened the door and her dog, a Labrador-Staffordshire bull terrier cross named Echo perished in the blaze.

Their two other dogs – Chico and Bonnie – were both rescued by firefighters and treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.

Police have since confirmed that they are treating the fire as suspicious.

Ryan, who had lived at the property for more than a year, said: “I had been playing pool when I noticed flames through the window in the door. Kelly opened it and was blown off her feet. The flames then began coming through the top of the door.

“We ran through to the bedroom and I jumped out the window, Kelly then followed me and Bonnie the pup as well. When I got outside I just lost it and tried to go back up the fireman’s ladder to get in to rescue the other two dogs. The firemen pulled me back and the police handcuffed me for my own safety.”

The young couple’s 
downstairs neighbour, Ronnie Arpino, 52, had only begun living in the property ten days before the drama.

He said: “I was lying on the sofa watching telly when I heard what sounded like popcorn popping, I looked out my window and could see all the neighbours, some with mobile phones out, looking at the flat above.

“As soon as I stepped out into the stairwell I could see all the smoke, so I ran out to the front and just as I did, the upstairs windows blew out with a bang.

“People were screaming that Ryan and Kelly were still up there so I dragged an old mattress that Ryan had thrown out, around beneath the window and they jumped down on to it.

“There had been some old bits of furniture left on the top stairwell.”

Another neighbour, Danny Thompson, 40, had to be rescued from the property by ladder and received treatment for smoke inhalation at the scene.

Asked whether he knew why anyone would deliberately start a fire, Ryan said: “No. I’ve no idea why anyone would do that.”

One neighbour who asked not to be named said: “It’s been nothing but trouble around here for the last year. This used to be a quiet street where everybody got on but that’s all changed now.

“It’s frightening to think that anybody would start a fire in the stair on purpose, it could have been a real tragedy.”

Detective Sergeant John Graham said: “The fire broke out on the top floor landing and spread to threaten properties in the stair.

“Some of the occupants were forced to jump from a first-floor window to safety, while another resident was rescued by the fire service.

“At this time we are appealing for any information that can assist our inquiries, in particular anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in or around the building prior to the fire breaking out.”

Anyone with any information should contact police on 0131-311 3131, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com