a TERRIFIED family was forced to flee to their balcony when their Winchburgh flat caught fire.
It is thought that the blaze was started deliberately.
Mum Carol-Ann Gemmell (26) and dad Stewart Walker (32) were woken up by their smoke detector just after 4am on Boxing Day when rubbish sitting in the close outside their flat was set alight. The parents grabbed Rhys (4) and Millie (2) and ran to the balcony of their second floor Glendevon Park flat while they waited for the fire brigade.
Carol-Ann said: “Our smoke detector went off about 4.10am and outside was ablaze. A neighbour phoned the emergency services who came 15 minutes later.
‘‘The smoke was rising to the ceiling and coming through the door and the children were screaming.
‘‘We stood on the balcony in the cold with the two kids in their pyjamas for about an hour while it was put out.”
The two children were checked over at the scene for smoke inhalation but did not have to be hospitalised.
Stewart said: “We were told if we had slept half an hour more, the fire would have come in and we don’t know what would have happened. The kids are traumatised and don’t want to come home and play with the toys they got for Christmas. They don’t even want to go out.”
The door of their council-owned home in the four-storey block was destroyed by the fire as was their neighbour’s door opposite.
There was also extensive smoke damage in the stairwell and to the roof which has since been letting water into the flat.
The family are temporarily staying at Carol-Ann’s sister’s flat but they are hoping to be relocated while repairs are carried out.
Council repair men visited the property on Wednesday to fix the lighting and a council spokesman said they were still inspecting the Glendevon property and that water damage repairs had already been carried out.
Lothian and Borders fire ser-vice used a hose reel to put out the flames at 4.13am, leaving the scene at 6.26am. Four firefighters using breathing apparatus assisted. A fire service spokesman said: “We are treating the fire at Winchburgh as deliberate. It was a severe blaze and the incident commander says it is fortunate there was a balcony for the family to get fresh air until crews arrived, and could make the area safe for them to escape.”
A police spokesman added that enquiries were continuing into the circumstances surrounding the incident.