Clerk St fire: Residents reveal terror

Firefighters at South Clerk Street. Picture: Esme Allen
Firefighters at South Clerk Street. Picture: Esme Allen
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POLICE are examining CCTV footage in a bid to discover the cause of a fire which ripped through a city centre store causing nearby residents to flee.

Up to 60 firefighters raced to tackle the fire which broke out in the premises of Le Chariot Express secondhand shop on South Clerk Street shortly after 5am yesterday.

Officers are treating the blaze as suspicious, and it is understood detectives are studying security footage from a neighbouring shop which reportedly shows an individual running from the back of the property just minutes before the blaze took hold.

The tape also allegedly shows somebody at the back of the property earlier that night.

Local residents who were forced to flee the dawn blaze backed up concerns that the fire had been started deliberately.

Debbie Thomson, 23, who lives in the building which caught fire, said: “I heard someone banging on my door and shouting to tell us the building was on fire.

“I looked out and it was just someone in a black top telling us to get out and I thought that it was a gang raid. I thought they had maybe set fire to the building.

“When I came outside I was shaking.”

Neumann Rayees, who lives in the basement below the shop said that he and his flatmate had heard people outside, as well as what they believed was a “metal canister” being dragged along the ground in the early hours of the morning.

The 23-year-old said: “At about half two we heard people outside and glass breaking.

“We didn’t think anything of it until after the fire. It sounded like a metal canister was being rolled somewhere.”

Another resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said they also heard what they believe was a “gas canister” being dragged across concrete.

South Clerk Street, one of the main arteries into the city centre, was closed between Hope Park Terrace and Newington Road, disrupting dozens of buses and commuter traffic throughout the rush hour this morning.

The street has since reopened although the southbound bus lane remains closed due to remaining fire appliances.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police in Edinburgh responded to a business premises in South Clerk Street at around 5.30am on Thursday, July 18 following reports of a fire.

“Residents and employees within neighbouring properties were evacuated to ensure their safety and no one was injured as a result of this incident.

“Officers are treating the fire as suspicious and anyone who can assist with their investigation is asked to come forward immediately.”

Graham Inglis, fire brigade group manager at the scene, said last night: “Given the intensity of the blaze we are checking the security of the structure. We have also been cutting away at the walls to check that there is no fire or smouldering remains still within the walls.

“Investigators are also now on site investigating the cause of the blaze.”