Thugs slash firefighters' hoses at UK school fire

More than 50 firefighters spent six hours trying to bring the flames under control; their tires were also slashed

By Paul Gilbride
The Express

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Fire chiefs yesterday condemned a gang of thugs who slashed their hoses as crews tackled a blaze.

More than 50 firefighters spent six hours trying to bring the flames under control at the derelict secondary school before their hoses were cut, causing water pressure to plummet.

And a fire officer later discovered the tyres to his car had also been slashed.

Crews from Lothian and Borders were called to deal with a blaze, at the old Craigroyston High School, in Muirhouse, Edinburgh, on Wednesday night.

At the height of the fire there were 10 appliances at the scene.

Crews arrived at 8.30pm and the vandals struck at 2.0am, putting eight hoses out of action. Several firefighters were then forced to spend half-an-hour changing the ruined equipment.

An investigation has begun in to the fire at the school, which has been lying empty for some time.

Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Ruth MacLeod said: "It was obviously a deliberate and malicious attempt to intercept the work of the crews.

This could have been very dangerous.

"Thankfully, this kind of thing is rare, but it is idiotic behaviour, which interferes with the crews as they try to protect property and lives."

The Fire Brigades Union said attacks against their members are now a regular occurrence.

Reported incidents are said to be the tip of the iceberg, because firefighters are reluctant to report being attacked by chi ldren as young as eight.

FBU spokesman Andy Fulton said: "I can barely find the words to describe how shocking this is.

"These yobs put our fire-fighters at serious risk by effectively cutting off their water supply. As a firefighter, that is one of the most dangerous situations in which you can find yourself.

"It is criminal as far as we are concerned and shows appalling disregard for the safety of our firefighters. Because of the foolish behaviour of these people, our firefighters were at a distinct disadvantage and it is only through good fortune that this did not have serious consequences."

Police are keen to trace three boys aged 15 or 16 who were seen close to the building at the time the fire broke out.

Lothian and Borders Police Inspector Sandy Boyd said: "The fire and the subsequent damage to the hoses are quite simply mindless acts of vandalism, which required significant resources from the fire service and the police.

"We are keen to speak to anyone who has any information that can help us track down those responsible. I would urge people to get in touch with us if they saw anyone acting suspiciously in the area before the fire broke out."

The area's Liberal Democrat MSP Margaret Smith described the sabotage as "absolutely outrageous" adding: "Just as it is unacceptable to attack emergency service personnel risking their lives to save others, deliberately vandalising lifesaving equipment is not on."

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