Crews dealing with a roof fire at West Pilton Children's Centre in Edinburgh on September 5 suffered sustained verbal abuse from local youths, who also threw eggs at appliances. As well as harassing the Lothian and Borders firefighters, some of those involved also interfered with the firefighting operations themselves. A 15 year-old male has been arrested and charged in connection with the attempted theft of a fire appliance, which temporarily caused the water supply to be affected.

A spokeswoman for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: "To impede emergency workers in the course of their duties is an offence. The actions of these youngsters were totally unacceptable and could have had much more serious consequences.

"Crews had to put up with continued verbal abuse and were also pelted with missiles as they tried to get the fire under control. Fighting the fire, which had been deemed a chemical incident because of asbestos in the roof, was made much harder because of the unwanted attention and anti-social behaviour of a hard core of young people.

"We would urge parents to remind their children about the vital role that firefighters play in the community. They need to be free to provide an emergency response to fires and other incidents without being diverted by mindless behaviour from troublemakers.

"It was particularly disappointing that a number of adults who were watching the scenes made no effort to speak to any of those involved in harassing the crews or ask them to stop what they were doing."

Chief Inspector Denise Mulvaney from Lothian and Borders Police said: "We are concerned and appalled at this incident and have launched an investigation to identify the other perpetrators of this attack. Assaults on any emergency service workers are completely unacceptable, and we will strive to identify and prosecute anyone committing these crimes."

The fire was extinguished at 1700, four hours after the call-out.

Photo by Sean Vatcher: