Council evacuates flats after 5 arson attacks

One resident moves out of the building after the latest fire. Picture: Joey Kelly
One resident moves out of the building after the latest fire. Picture: Joey Kelly
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TERRIFIED families have been evacuated from a block of flats after fire-raisers targeted their homes five times in as many weeks.

The 16-property stair was deemed too unsafe after the door of one family’s home was covered in petrol and set alight in the early hours of the morning.

The latest fire caused extensive damage. Picture: Joey Kelly

The latest fire caused extensive damage. Picture: Joey Kelly

Residents fear innocent families homes have been attacked in the mistaken belief that a drug dealer is living there.

One resident said: “Every night you go to bed you think ‘could this be our last?’”

The council ordered the immediate evacuation of the Bingham Way flats after the latest blaze was set at 6am yesterday. It came just ten days after another flat door was targeted – and on both occasions firefighters have had to lead terrified residents, including crying infants, to safety.

Neighbours have been left “living in fear” as mindless fireraisers escalated from setting the communal rubbish chute alight to targeting the doors of properties with flammable liquid.

In the latest incident, Elaine Rambling, 47, who lives with her two sons, aged 18 and 20, was awoken by her smoke alarm to find flames licking through her letter box. She said: “I’ve no idea why anyone would target my door. Thank God the smoke alarm went off or we’d be dead.”

Six tenants with young families have been evacuated into temporary accommodation within the Shandwick Apartments in the West End while a more permanent solution is sought.

Two tenants have refused the offer and have elected to move in with family and friends nearby. Meanwhile, four tenants have informed housing officers that they intend to stay, while the remaining families have been informed of the offer by letter, but are yet to reply.

Firebugs have been able to gain entry to the building as a locking mechanism on the main door of the tenement has been repeatedly ripped off – up to seven times in the last three years.

Installing a more robust mechanism has been deemed a priority against a backdrop of a major police investigation to snare the fireraisers.

Uniformed officers are maintaining a presence in an effort to reassure the residents like Elaine, who has chosen to move in with a neighbour rather than flee.

She said: “We’re all terrified but I’m not going to be driven out. This is a good stair with decent people, it’s just being ruined by idiots in the last few weeks.

“My concern about leaving is that once we’re in temporary accommodation, if the council don’t find us a place we’ll be put into a homeless unit and then have to go back on to the housing list.”

Councillor Cammy Day, city housing leader, said: “The council is doing all it can to support the residents of Bingham Way during this time. We have offered to temporarily rehouse residents in the stair and our contractors will be repairing the main entrance door as a matter of urgency. Our priority is the safety of all our tenants whilst the police investigation is ongoing.”

A police spokesman said: “A number of residents had to be evacuated from the building as a result of the blaze, and police are appealing to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity to get in touch.”