BUNGLING Scottish Gas staff burned down two family homes causing damage worth an estimated £300,000 – while trying to fit a new central heating boiler.
Incredibly, the firm continued to levy the daily standing charge for gas from one of the families for six months.
The massive blaze in Tranent, East Lothian, put at risk the lives of three people in the two semi-detatched homes, one a council property and the other privately owned.
Both three-bedroomed homes were so badly damaged they will have to be demolished and rebuilt.
The homes are worth about £125,000 each while demolition will cost in the region of £22,000. Adding the cost of damaged and destroyed contents, the bill is set to soar through £300,000.
Scottish Gas staff were fitting a new boiler and radiators at the council-owned home in Windygoul Crescent last June when the fire broke out.
Five fire engines and 25 firefighters battled the flames and the Red Cross sent a support van to help traumatised residents.
William Yorkston, 64, who owns the property next door to the one getting a new boiler, was sitting in his living room watching TV with his mum when disaster struck.
He said: “The fire started next door and came through our roof when we were just watching telly, minding our own business.
“Me and my mother rushed outside and then had to stand on the street, watching the house burn down. It was such a horrible feeling.
“We went back up the next day to see the damage and just felt lost. All our belongings are gone, including a lot of photos which have sentimental value.”
He continued: “We’ve now been passed from pillar to post, from Travelodges to Premier Inns, and now we’re finally renting in Elphinstone thanks to our insurance.
“I suppose it wasn’t intentional but after all British Gas put us through, they still wanted 28 pence a day from us for six months after the house burned down.
“We just feel completely lost now, we’re in limbo. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
A report by Douglas Proudfoot, East Lothian Council’s head of development, states in a report on the blaze that British Gas have accepted liability for the fire and damage caused.
It reads: “It should be noted that British Gas, who were working in the house immediately before the house fire, have admitted liability for the fire and the resulting damage.
“Ongoing discussions are being held between the Council’s legal department and lawyers for British Gas.”
Facebook user Keith Scott revealed: “It’s my mum and dad’s neighbours. Two houses are gutted. They were getting new boiler and radiators fitted. They now think it could have been when they were soldering the pipes.”
A Scottish Gas spokeswoman said: “Scottish Gas takes its responsibility for safety in customers’ homes extremely seriously.
“When the fire took place a year ago, we immediately carried out a full investigation.
“We’ve taken responsibility for what happened, and are working with East Lothian Council to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
“We are very sorry that we sent bills to Mr Yorkston following the fire.
“This added to the distress and inconvenience caused, and of course shouldn’t have happened.
“We’ve now refunded him. We’re also making a goodwill gesture to Mr Yorkston and will be contacting him to apologise. “