Barking fire: residents say safety fears were downplayed
Residents' association wrote to Bellway Homes about fire risk a month before blaze
Residents at a block of flats in east London that was destroyed by a fire yesterday say their concerns about fire risk were played down as recently as last month.
Barking Reach residents’ association told The Guardian that in May they contacted Bellway Homes, which built the flats, to ask for the risk of fire to be investigated. They pointed out that BBC Watchdog had revealed fire safety concerns at two other developments by the same builder.
However, Bellway replied saying that the construction method used on those developments was different, so the Barking homes were not affected.
It concluded: “We understand that these news articles are highly alarming for all residents of new homes and I hope that the above statement has allayed any fears you may have over the safety and construction of your Bellway home.”
A resident told The Times that concerns had been raised repeatedly about the fire alarm system because the control panel showed a fault and that their had been longstanding concerns about the wood cladding on the block.
An investigation is underway after 20 flats were destroyed by the fire. A further 10 flats in De Pass Gardens, Barking, were damaged by heat and smoke. A man and a woman were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. It is not yet known what caused the fire.
Resident Mihaela Gheorghe told the BBC she had “raised several issues” about the safety of wooden balconies on the blocks of flats. She said: “We said that one day a fire is going to happen. We raised several issues to the builder, the maintenance companies and the council about the safety of having all these wooden balconies.”
Around 100 firefighters worked for more than two hours to extinguish the fire. London Fire Brigade's Andy Maloney said: “Crews worked really hard at the scene to bring the fire under control.”
A London Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We sent two ambulance crews, two solo responders, our hazardous area response team and London's Air Ambulance.”
The fire came just days before the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire, which claimed the lives of 72 people, with another 70 were injured.
Several Grenfell survivors and relatives are taking legal action in the US against three firms they blame for the fire, the BBC reports this morning. If successful, the lawsuit, which will target the cladding maker Arconic, insulation maker Celotex and fridge supplier Whirlpool, could cost the firms tens of millions of dollars in damages.
However, some Grenfell residents have refused to sign up to the suit, because they believe it could become a “distraction” from the ongoing public inquiry and criminal investigation.