826 calls for fire brigade

FIRE chiefs today praised the efforts of their crews after the city's busiest ever Bonfire Night.

Operators at the fire and rescue service's control room in Tollcross received 826 calls from 6pm last night, well up on last year's record total of 770. Stray fireworks, out-of-control bonfires and malicious fires had the fire service dashing from one emergency call to another.

In one incident, a firework was deliberately put through the window of a flat in Murieston Place, Dalry causing a small fire in a bathroom.

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Stray fireworks also sparked a blaze on Arthur's Seat near the Crags which fire crews were still damping down this morning.

In Willowbrae a group of youths let off fireworks in a block of flats before smashing windows.

The youths had been letting off fireworks in the stairwell of Mandy Gray's block at Meadowfield Drive when she went to the window and shouted at them to go away.

She showed them her video camera to show she was going to record what they were doing and they then threw stones at her window, smashing four of them.

Mrs Gray, 41, who recently lost her husband to cancer, said the youngsters were laughing and filming what they were doing on their mobile phones. She said: "It was absolutely terrifying, it sounded like World War Three when the bangers were going off in the stairwell and it is not fair because there are only four of us in the block and my neighbours are all pensioners."

In Leith, there were reports of a children's playpark in Madeira Street being set alight, while one resident was left terrified after a gang of teenagers threw fireworks at his house on Prince Regent Street, and at passing pensioners, just before 8pm last night.

Also in the Leith area, a fire was deliberately started in an abandoned warehouse off Edina Place last night around 8pm. There were no reports of any fire crews coming under attack this year.

Last year saw a big leap in the number of call outs, 770 compared to 430 in 2005. That was around eight times the number of calls received on an average night.

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David Mallin, community safety manager with Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said today: "It was a phenomenal effort by the crews and everyone in the control room to deal with that volume of calls.

"I think there will still be a little bit of a hangover tonight and maybe the following night but we now need to concentrate on how we can reduce the number of calls."

Police chiefs today said a new council-led bonfire removal squad introduced this year had made a difference. Members of the council's new neighbourhood partnerships had been working in the lead up to November 5 to remove rubbish left lying in public areas, along with piles of wood or cardboard that is obviously being stockpiled for an illegal bonfire.

Anything suitable was being seized by council workers is being added to the pile of two large official bonfires being organised at Sighthill Park and an area of open ground opposite Wester Hailes park.