By Kirsty Topping and Hannah Ewen
FIREFIGHTERS had to cut apart a metal gate that stopped them getting in to tackle a blaze at massive block of car-free, eco-friendly flats.
According to witnesses, a fire engine with a long ladder attachment was unable to get past the barrier at the development in Slateford Green, Edinburgh.
Firefighters were forced to jump out and use special equipment to dismantle the obstacle.
A fireman on scene, who asked not to be named, said: “We cut it because we couldn’t get it high enough to get the turntable ladder through.”
Residents were forced to flee for their lives after fire broke out shortly after lunchtime today (Fri) in a ground floor flat.
Residents suggested that the fire had been started deliberately by two youngsters using paper to set fire to the building’s wooden cladding.
A resident said: “I called the fire brigade Just after lunch, I think a lot of people did, and as I put the phone down I could see flames.”
Patrick Galbraith, 29, said: “I was just sitting in my house and smelled smoke. I went out and saw lots of smoke coming out the front and someone said there were flames at the back from outside of the bottom flat kitchen window. There was no one in there.”
Amanda Rose,38, said: “I saw flames going all the way up the building.
“Apparently four teenagers were seen with papers and lighters but when people don’t know what’s happened they’ll fill the gaps.
“Normally it’s safe here, lots of families.
Resident Shaun Costello said the building appeared to have been set on fire from the outside.
He claimed the construction of the building – in particular the insulation – made it a potential fire hazard.
“It’s a paper mch thing sprayed in between two walls,” he said.
“It’s excellent insulation but no good when it comes to fireproofing. “
After the fire was extinguished, firefighters began work to remove the charred remains of the building’s cladding.
The wooden walls of the flats are understood to be insulated with old newspapers as part of the environment-friendly credentials of the development.
A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire Service said:
“The fire started at the exterior on the ground floor. It spread to the roof space and was behind the wall cladding. We are checking for hotspots now.
“All residents are present and accounted for. “
Nigel Hicks, Finance Director of the developers, Dunedin Canmore said:
“I don’t think the residents of the flat where it started were in. We have a surveyor and a housing officer down there now. “
The 120 homes are a mixture of private and social housing.
The firm’s website says the scheme is an
“attempt to demonstrate the benefits of living in a car free environment.”
“Furthermore, the homes are constructed using sustainable materials and construction methods wherever possible. “