A WHEELIE bin was dumped in a common stairwell and set alight, leading residents – including a four-week-old baby girl – to be evacuated after it released toxic fumes throughout the building.
The incident, on Tuesday evening, filled four floors with thick black smoke and damaged belongings including a buggy and mattresses that were left on the ground floor when the bin was abandoned – right in front of the main door.
Residents in the flats at Wester Drylaw Drive believe the bin was torched by “three or four youths”. Four firefighters in breathing apparatus helped the residents to safety, while 15 others tackled the fire.
The parents of the four-week-old baby said they had opened their door to see thick black smoke in the corridor.
The girl’s mother, who asked not to be named, said: “We were pretty scared and I thought we were going to have to climb down a turntable ladder at one point. Luckily we were OK, and the baby was OK, but this is one of several incidents since we moved in a couple of months ago.
“The police have been here at least four times, and we’re not just talking a few officers, but meat wagons and sniffer dogs.
“The last time they came there were 25 police surrounding the building. There are problems with a group of youths.
“As a new couple in the street, we find them pretty intimidating. They don’t say anything, but we hear them swearing and shouting, throwing stones and walking across the roofs.”
Another resident, who also wished to remain anonymous, said she had seen three youths shrieking and running down the hallway just minutes before the fire. She said: “You could hear them on the ground floor before they ran outside. We opened our front door and you couldn’t see the door opposite, the smoke was that thick.
“It really stings your eyes and we’ve been told the fumes from the bins are toxic because of all the chemicals in the plastic.”
An investigation into the fire is under way by Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service.
Councillor Mike Bridgman, convener of the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Board, said firefighters had been forced to attend a lot of these types of fires recently and blasted the culprits as “mindless”.
He said: “The amount of toxic fumes released from these bins is remarkable and they can severely disorientate firefighters and residents.
“If anybody has any information about this fire, or any similar fires, I’d encourage them to pass it on to police.
“Crews have to attend a lot of these types of fires, and whoever causes them is quite simply mindless.”
On early Tuesday morning, crews were called to an alight wheelie bin in Burnbank, Ladywell, which spread to the gas meter of a property, leading to an evacuation.
Watch commander John Feeney said: “We have had to deal with a large number of fires in the open and against buildings, which are placing a strain on our resources and putting people’s lives at risk.”
The service dealt with 34 fires in open ground, 11 wheelie bin fires, four swing park fires and two post box fires.