A FIRE which forced 13 people to flee for their lives may have been started by a firework.
Terrified residents reported hearing a bang shortly before the blaze broke out above an Edinburgh pub.
Firefighters had to rescue 13 people from the building and seven were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Almost 50 firefighters raced to the Waterline pub in The Shore, Leith, shortly before 9pm last night.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: “We think it was arson. We think we heard a firework go off.”
“If our flat has been damaged, that’s our whole life gone – we’ve not got insurance,” the distraught resident said as they waited to get access to the property again on Wednesday morning.”
Another resident, who also asked not to be named, confirmed they heard a bang before the fire started.
The fire left the first floor flat where the fire started completely gutted.
Neighbours said the occupant was not in the flat at the time. Witnesses saw the woman running back to find her home on fire and standing outside screaming.
Gerry Forristal, 39, a business consultant who has only lived in the area for a few months, was one of those rescued.
He said he was hit by a cloud of black smoke when looking out onto the stairwell from his top floor flat.
”I was on the couch watching TV,” he said. “I smelled smoke and at first I thought it was just a boiler, but I saw people out on the street shouting ‘get out, get out’.
“I went to the door and I was hit by a cloud of black smoke, I knew I couldn’t get down the stairs.”
Mr Forristal then went to his bathroom and placed a wet towel under the door. A fireman then helped him down a ladder onto the street below, he said.
“It was quite scary. But it could have been an absolutely unmitigated disaster if it had happened later in the night.”
Mr Forristal, who along with other residents suffered extensive smoke damage to his flat, added: “We’re very lucky that everybody got out safely, we’re all blessed.”
“What’s left we can fix, as long we’re all still alive.”
The fire took almost two and a half hours to bring under control.
Firefighters used breathing gear and high pressure house reels to extinguish the blaze.
They said they saw many people shouting for help from windows.
Lottie Walters, 31, a student, lives in a building next door to the block of flats. She said she saw the occupier of the flat where the fire started screaming outside the pub when she came back to find her flat in flames.
She said: “She was devastated, she came back screaming. I feel terrible for her.”
Ken Horne, an oil well fire test supervisor who lives next door to the block, said: “I heard a man shouting ‘I can’t get out!’
“The guy must have been very scared. The fire brigade looked very professional though they must have been scared too, going into a something like that.”
The Waterline pub below suffered some smoke damage, though staff said it would be open again as usual.