Maligned as pesky urban pests and reviled for making a mess on perfectly good roosting spots that happen to resemble beloved historical figures, pigeons are now facing far more serious accusations.
Firefighters investigating the cause of an apartment fire in south London last night say a careless pigeon with a lit cigarette is, oddly enough, the most likely culprit.
After extinguishing the blaze, which began on the roof of the building and forced the evacuation of nine residents, fire crews were baffled at first about what exactly had happened.
"No one had been up to there for a long time and there were no electrics that could have sparked the blaze," Matt Cullen from the London Fire Brigade tells the Telegraph.
Then began the blame game.
When investigators learned that some birds -- pigeons, no less -- had been seen flying out of a hole in the roof, they looked and conveniently discovered the partially burned remains of a nest -- circumstantial evidence at best that Cullen and his team seized upon as "the smoking gun."
"We believe that one of the birds picked up a cigarette butt that was still smouldering and dropped it into the nest, causing it to catch fire and set the roof alight," says a self-assured Cullen.
"The incident is a great example of why it's important to put your cigarettes out fully. You never know what might become of your smouldering butts."
In other words, given the dangers posed by pigeons, citizens would be well-advised to not drop lit cigarettes on the ground if for no other reason than to prevent an avian arsonist from starting another fire.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time the birds have been blamed for leaving a building in flames with a lit smoke. Investigators say that just last year in London a pigeon supposedly dropped a cigarette down the chimney of a house, sparking a blaze when it landed on a birds nest inside.