Buses gutted in blaze attack

The remains of torched buses at the Eskbank Road depot
The remains of torched buses at the Eskbank Road depot
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POLICE are hunting fireraisers who torched three buses at a First depot in an attack which is believed to have caused damage running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Firefighters arrived at the depot in Eskbank Road, Dalkeith, to find two single-deck buses “well alight” after receiving several 999 calls.

Before they were able to tackle the blaze, the flames spread to a third bus in the depot car park, causing extensive damage.

First bosses have branded the fire attack as “mindless” and pledged to work “around the clock” to limit the impact on its services.

It is understood that investigators believe some kind of accelerant was used to start the blaze, which broke out shortly after 1am on Saturday.

Police are treating the fire as suspicious and have appealed for witnesses.

First buses have been under attack in the county before. The company withdrew services by a fleet of new buses in 2005 after a string of stone-throwing attacks by youths.

Councillor Wilma Chalmers, Midlothian’s cabinet leader for commercial operations, said: “It’s terrible that this kind of thing can take place, and I would urge people to contact the police if they have any information.

“Bus services are important to our communities and provide vital links between our towns and villages, so it’s a real shame to see this kind of mindless act of vandalism occur.”

Paul Thomas, managing director of First, said: “As a result of this mindless act, we will be working around the clock to ensure that this does not affect our bus services within Midlothian and East Lothian this week.

“We are working closely with the police to identify those responsible.”

A police spokesman said: “The fire broke out around 1am and destroyed three buses. We are appealing to anyone who was in the area of the bus depot in Eskbank Road in the early hours of Saturday morning, who saw or heard anything suspicious, to contact 0131-311 3131, or Crimestoppers in confidence and complete anonymity on 0800 555 111.”

Fire crews from Musselburgh and Dalkeith were called to the scene at 1.02am and spent nearly an hour-and-a-half putting out the flames. Nobody was injured.

A fire service spokeswoman said: “When firefighters arrived, two single-decker buses were well-alight. The fire then spread to a third bus. Four firefighters use two hose reels to extinguish the fire, and the stop message on the incident was given at 2.30am.”

In October 2005, First Bus withdrew its new fleet of 15 double-deckers after a number had their windows smashed, mainly in an area of Dalkeith which became known as “ambush alley”.

Last October, a blaze gutted five bin lorries at a Midlothian depot, hampering rubbish collections and causing £500,000 of damage. Firefighters battled the blaze at Stobhill Road in Newtongrange for four hours.