Man tells of miraculous escape from burning Craigmillar flats

Greendykes House where a number of fires have started recently and left the residents scared for their lives. Picture: Greg Macvean
Greendykes House where a number of fires have started recently and left the residents scared for their lives. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A MAN whose 14th floor flat was gutted by fire has told of his miraculous escape and insists he was not to blame for the blaze.

Ross, who did not want to give his full name for privacy reasons, had lived in the 15-storey Greendykes House in Craigmillar for five years.

The 30-year-old was in his bedroom on Saturday when the fire broke out around 9am. He heard his fire alarm, but assumed it had gone off by mistake after the drama of the previous three days when four fires broke out across the high rise.

Shortly afterwards, he heard a loud crackling like a “crisp packet being rustled” and he ventured to the bedroom door to investigate. He told the Evening News: “When I opened the door there were flames from the top to the bottom of the hall. I panicked.”

After braving the flames to get to the kitchen, where he had left his mobile phone, Ross called a friend who notified the concierge of the flats about the fire. He was burned as he fled the bedroom and found it hard to breathe against the force of the fire, but made it to safety where he immediately opened the windows. “The whole flat was black with smoke and the carpet in the hall was on fire,” he said. “I couldn’t get back out.”

Desperately worried about his pet cat, eight-year-old Bella, Ross tried in vain to search for her, but couldn’t cross the kitchen threshold. He said: “I couldn’t see Bella anywhere. I kept opening the door and shouting for her, but there was no response.”

Smoke billowed in from the scorched hall every time he opened the kitchen door. He credits the fire door for saving his life, saying: “I thought I was going to die in the fire.”

Seeing a man waiting at the bus stop outside, Ross called for help and the bystander called the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

After about 15 minutes, Ross realised that he was going to have to attempt an escape. He wrapped sheets and towels from the washing basket around him before making a dash through the burning flat and getting to the front door. “I had to play a blind man,” he said. “I couldn’t see anything and had to keep my eyes closed as I felt my way down the hall. I don’t know where I found the courage.”

Ross suffered burns to his bare feet, arms, legs and scalp during the dramatic escape.

He was treated for smoke inhalation and burns at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Ross is now being put up in a hotel by the council after losing all of his belongings – and his beloved cat – in the blaze that gutted his flat. “Bella was my best friend,” he said. “I don’t know how the fire started, but there is no way it was down to me.”