Town where six homes were destroyed by raging inferno had no fire engines at nearby East Kilbride depot

RESIDENTS burned out of their street by a huge blaze faced a crucial delay for help – because their local fire depot had no engines.

Six homes were destroyed in East Kilbride last week after the inferno took hold.

The aftermath of Friday's fire in Whitelee, East Kilbride


The aftermath of Friday’s fire in Whitelee, East KilbrideCredit: © Michael McGurk 2023
Flames rip through the properties as crews battle the blaze


Flames rip through the properties as crews battle the blazeCredit: John Kirkby News Group newspapers
A firefighter helps get the inferno under control.


A firefighter helps get the inferno under control.Credit: Tom Farmer

But firefighters took almost 20 minutes to respond because appliances were sent from Clarkston – almost nine miles from the scene.

We can reveal the engines based at East Kilbride town centre – just three miles from the fire – were being used elsewhere for a training exercise.

Union chiefs today slammed cost-cutting measures that meant no emergency cover was on-site in East Kilbride – home to 75,000 people.

A source said: “It should have taken between six and eight minutes for firefighters to be on the scene but instead it was 18.

“Obviously that difference is huge when a fire of that scale is taking hold.”

Firefighters took almost 20 minutes to respond because appliances were sent from Clarkston


Firefighters took almost 20 minutes to respond because appliances were sent from Clarkston

We told how the homes in Whitelee were reduced to roofless shells as shocking aerial images showed the devastation caused by Friday’s inferno.

Burnt-out furniture and precious possessions were strewn around destroyed rooms after the “not suspicious” blaze tore through the properties.

Families escaped uninjured before firefighters battled through the night to bring the massive fire under control.

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But union chiefs say the damage was made worse by ongoing budget cuts that have slashed resources.

Colin Brown, FBU executive member for Scotland, said: “This fire at East Kilbride shows the appalling impact of the budget cuts being imposed on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

“The lack of second appliance cover at East Kilbride and the delay in getting crew from further afield to the scene of the fire meant that vital minutes were lost and the fire was able to spread quickly to neighbouring properties.

“Thankfully, no one was injured in this incident but delays such as this are going to get more common and the risk to life will increase if the year-on-year cuts to services that see fire appliances withdrawn and firefighter numbers cut, continue.

“The Scottish Government has to provide the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service with a budget that allows us to do our jobs properly and keep communities and business safe.”

Deputy Assistant Chief Officer Stephen Wright insisted crews would attend “ every emergency” and “always mobilise the nearest available appliance”.

He added: “On Friday, October 20, at 4.01pm, we were alerted to reports of a well-developed fire affecting several properties in Whitelee, East Kilbride, and operations control immediately mobilised two appliances to the scene.

“Two further appliances and a high reach appliance were also requested by the on-scene incident commander to support the tactical plan and bring the incident to a resolution.

“There were no reported casualties involved and our crews worked tirelessly to bring this incident to a safe conclusion.”

Our source added: “The cuts happening across the service means resources are stretched like never before.

“It’s heartbreaking for the people who have lost their homes and the only God send is it didn’t end with a fatality, this time.”

We told how flames and smoke have been spotted billowing from several terraced houses as the alarm was raised.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service sent four appliances and an aerial appliance to the scene as residents fled in fear.

A hero firefighter on an aerial appliance was seen dowsing the properties in a bid to extinguish the monster blaze.

Last month fire chiefs warned they will be forced to cut firefighters amid a cash crisis that’s left buildings and vehicles unfit for the 21st century.

The SFRS said it risked “compromising the safety of Scotland’s communities” unless more cash was found by SNP ministers.

In a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s criminal justice committee, the SFRS echoed a dire warning from police chiefs about looming cop cuts.

They said that 339 firefighter posts would have to go if the Scottish Government goes ahead with spending plans, with pressures of crumbling infrastructure proving a drain on the budget used for staffing.

SFRS chiefs said: “Our estate is largely not fit for purpose and the problem is getting worse.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No budget has been set for 2024-25 but, despite ongoing difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we have continued to prioritise frontline services.”

Scottish Conservative deputy justice spokesperson, Sharon Dowey MSP said: “This is the reality of what brutal SNP cuts are doing to local fire services.

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“It should never have reached a point where there were no appliances to respond to such a large scale incident in somewhere like East Kilbride.

“SNP ministers must urgently deliver the funding our fire service needs before a lack of available appliances becomes all too commonplace.” 

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