Activists feel the heat over blaze at camp

A fire crew attends to the St Andrew Square blaze
A fire crew attends to the St Andrew Square blaze
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ACTIVISTS at the Occupy Edinburgh camp have been criticised for not following basic fire safety guidelines after a blaze took hold of a tent yesterday morning.

Firefighters were called to the St Andrew Square site around 11.20am after a small blaze took hold of a tent and timber structure.

The incident involved one crew from Tollcross, which used a high-pressure hose to extinguish the fire.

Fire chiefs said the tents, which are currently huddled together on a thin wooden base, should be metres apart to prevent a blaze from spreading quickly.

They also warned occupants not to smoke or cook inside the structures. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.

Eyewitnesses voiced some concerns that there were gas cannisters left lying around the camp as crews arrived yesterday.

Rob King, 60, a lollipop man, said: “We were coming into the square and we saw the crews putting the fire out. It looked like someone had been cooking and there were four or five of those Calor-type canisters lying around.

“I don’t have any problem with them being there, but my only concern is when the warmer weather comes you’ll get all sorts sleeping rough there, because that’s the done thing now.”

Activists say they are part of a global movement protesting against economic and social inequality.

They moved into the camp in early November and currently occupy around a dozen tents in the public square, which is run by Essential Edinburgh.

The occupy movement, which is present in many major cities including Glasgow, London and New York, is described as an ongoing protest and no date has been set for the city camp to move.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, told the Evening News: “If all of the normal guidelines in the square were bring adhered to, this wouldn’t have happened.

“You’re not allowed fires, political rallies, dogs, or alcohol, but all of these rules put in place for the management of the garden have effectively been broken by the protesters.

“The council’s health and safety people visited several weeks ago to talk about the risks of putting their tents too close together.”

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: “We would urge people to take extra care around camping equipment and tents, and should avoid using oil burning appliances and candles.”

Occupy Edinburgh said the fire was a minor accident.