Fears stairwell fire-raising could be out of control

An example of a stairwell fire in Captain's Drive
An example of a stairwell fire in Captain's Drive
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COMMUNITIES across the Capital are being hit by a deliberate stairwell blaze every fortnight, new figures have revealed.

Firefighters are considering emergency uplifts of discarded rubbish and furniture in a bid to reverse the trend, as fresh images revealed how buildings had been left gutted by firebug attacks.

And they issued an appeal urging residents to ensure tenement closes and high-rise corridors are kept clear of items that could be set alight by fire-raisers.

Figures for 2013-14 show there were 25 suspect stair fires in Edinburgh – only two fewer than in Glasgow, despite ­Glasgow’s larger population.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) leaders said they would work closely with police and council staff in an effort to crack down on those putting lives at risk.

They have also compiled case studies illustrating what they described as the “devastating” impact of fire-raising.

Steve Gourlay, SFRS prevention and protection manager for the City of Edinburgh, said: “We would urge people not to leave rubbish or bins in the common stairwells of tenement blocks.

“This can be very attractive to fire-raisers and increases the risk of a blaze.

“Discarded items of furniture and rubbish can produce large amounts of toxic smoke and also impede access for emergency responders.

“In Edinburgh, deliberate property fires are a concern with many of these involving combustibles in stairwells. The casualties and damage caused are preventable and we need to reduce them.”

Crews revealed that a fire in the Capital’s Captain’s Drive resulted in three hospitalisations after a wheelie bin was set alight.

And another blaze elsewhere in Scotland, which began when a pile of household waste was ignited in a seven-storey apartment block, saw 77 residents re-housed on Christmas Day after a mains power supply was damaged.

Stressing that safety programmes such as “Stair Aware” would continue, Mr Gourlay said there were a number of simple measures which could help protect residents and their families.

“Steps should be taken to ensure the door entry-intercom system is working,” he said.

“I would like to stress the importance of having a working smoke alarm. Every household should have working smoke alarms and test them every week.

“We provide free home fire-safety visits and fit smoke alarms where required.”

City chiefs said stairwell fires presented a huge safety risk. Councillor Mike Bridgman, police and fire scrutiny leader, said: “This is people endangering people who live beside them or in their vicinity.

“It’s total stupidity, putting people’s lives at risk in that manner.

“And I would hope people would cotton on to the importance of not leaving items that are combustible in the stairwell, because they are putting their lives at risk, as well as those of other occupants.”