Barking fire: Safety fears at flats ruined by blaze were first raised after Grenfell, say residents

Residents voiced concerns about wooden cladding and lack of working fire alarms

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 11 June 2019 07:25
Comments
100 firefighters battle fire at London block of flats

Safety fears about a block of flats in east London ravaged by a huge fire on Sunday were first raised in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it has been claimed.

Concerns about wooden cladding were voiced almost two years before the blaze which destroyed 20 flats and damaged 10 more at De Pass Gardens in Barking, according to a member of the residents’ association.

Venilia Amorim, treasurer of the Barking Reach Residents’ Association, said: “Several residents, with the help of the residents’ association, have been raising concerns since the Grenfell Tower fire two years ago.”

One homeowner at De Pass Gardens claimed the sprinkler systems were not working at the flats, while a Conservative politician at the scene claimed no alarms were heard as the flames spread.

Bellway Homes, which built the flats, said an investigation is underway and the company would work with the local authority to secure temporary accommodation for affected residents.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan visited the scene on Monday as an emergency meeting was held for residents, many of whom remained unable return to their homes in nearby blocks until they were deemed safe.

Ms Amorim said buildings in the Barking development, including both flats and houses, are covered with a wooden cladding which residents were told was safe. But the speed the fire spread has raised fresh questions over the safety of the materials, she said.

“The wooden cladding is everywhere,” said Ms Amorim. “We have got a lot of residents now not wanting to go back to their homes, not even to the adjacent blocks, because there’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again.”

Firefighters deal with the blaze at a block of flats in Barking

She described a similar block nearby as a “mirror image” of the gutted flats, adding: “One of the concerns now with this building is there is a huge temporary heating system outside of one of the entrances and that’s on diesel.”

De Pass Gardens resident Subramaniyan said he and his two children had spent the night a hotel. He told LBC that residents had raised safety concerns about the wooden cladding and faulty sprinkler systems.

Andrew Boff, who went door-to-door at the flats in an effort to make sure people evacuated as the fire took hold, told LBC: “The curious thing was there were no fire alarms, and that’s been an issue with these buildings.

“The fire alarms don’t work, which is why they have fire wardens sitting in there at night – so that’s one issue that we need to talk about.”

Nobody was hurt in the fire, but a man and a woman were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Fifteen fire engines and 100 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze, which broke out at about 3.30pm and took several hours to bring under control.

Barking and Dagenham Council set up rest centres for evacuated residents and has endorsed a fundraiser for people affected.

Council leader Darren Rodwell said: “I have spent the whole day with residents and support staff at the community centre and the site of the fire. Earlier today I joined representatives from London Fire Brigade and other organisations to give residents the very latest information and reassure them that we have arranged accommodation for them over the next three nights.

“We are doing all we can to make sure residents who have lost their homes are as comfortable as possible and have access to services that will help them through this difficult period.”

Bellway Homes said: “The fire yesterday at Samuel Garside House in Barking, a low rise block of apartments, is a very serious issue and we are working with all parties to establish how this happened.

“Whilst we are continuing our investigations into this matter, we are supporting London Borough of Barking and Dagenham in securing alternative temporary accommodation for affected residents and are offering our support to help remediate the damaged apartments.

“We understand that the blaze was contained to the external envelope of the eastern elevation of the building, with initial reports suggesting that it was caused by a barbecue on a resident’s balcony. We are relieved that the fire protection measures within the building, which received all regulatory approvals, ensured that occupants were safely evacuated.”

Friday marks two years since Grenfell Tower in Kensington was gutted by fire, killing 72 people.

40,000 people still living in deadly Grenfell-style tower blocks

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge said she feared “people would have died” had the Barking fire taken place at night.

The MP for Barking said it was appropriate a “proper investigation” takes place, adding: “It absolutely shocked me that the fire alarms that should have been in place and operating were not working, and there were no sprinklers on this block of flats because they were not considered necessary.”

Dame Margaret said timber was used in a “decorative way” and raised allegations that it “had not been treated”, adding: "What I’ve been told is the regulations are such that because the building was only a six-storey building and therefore not 18 metres or higher there was no necessity for having that sort of regulation. That is shocking.”

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire said he would visit the development on Monday evening, adding the matters raised by Dame Margaret are subject to investigation.

He said: “I can assure her that I have asked the BRE to provide technical expertise on investigating the reasons for the speed for the fire spread.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in