A DOZEN terrified residents fled for their lives from a dawn blaze they believe was started deliberately.
The fire in Edinburgh started on the first floor of a second hand shop, before spreading to the residential flats above.
Sixty firefighters were called to the blaze in South Clerk Street at 5.18am yesterday.
Debbie Thomson, who lives in the building which caught fire, believes that the fire could have been started on purpose.
The 23-year old said: “We are thinking that it was deliberate.”
She added: “I heard someone banging on my door and shouting to tell us the building was on fire.
“I looked out and it was just someone in a black top telling us to get out, and I thought that it was a gang raid. I thought they had maybe set fire to the building.
“When I came outside I was shaking, you just don’t think it will ever happen to you.”
Neumann Rayees, who lives in the basement below the shop said that he and his flatmate heard people outside, as well as what they believed was a “metal canister” being dragged along the ground in the early hours of the morning.
The 23-year-old said: “At about half two we heard people outside and glass breaking. We didn’t think anything of it until after the fire. It sounded like a metal canister was being rolled somewhere.”
Another resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said they also heard what they believe was a “gas canister” being dragged across concrete.
He said: “I heard what we think is a gas canister being dragged across the concrete. We don’t know if it was the pavement outside, or if the shop maybe has a concrete floor, we really don’t know. But it definitely sounded like a canister being dragged somewhere.”
South Clerk Street remained closed into the afternoon yesterday as firefighters worked to ensure that flames had not spread through the walls.
Peter Heath, incident commander for the fire brigade at the scene, said almost six hours after the blaze started he could not confirm it had been put out.
He added: “We are still cutting away at the walls and using thermal imaging to determine if there are still flames, and to make sure that we have them all.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Enquiries into the fire will be continuing. The cause of the fire has still to be established.”