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Camden tower blocks’ fire safety concerns unheard for years, say residents

PUBLISHED: 15:11 19 June 2017 | UPDATED: 14:47 20 June 2017

All five high rise blocks with more than 700 homes are being evacuated immediately

All five high rise blocks with more than 700 homes are being evacuated immediately

Archant

Serious concerns over safety measures raised following a fire at a high-rise tower block still remain to be addressed five years on, say residents.

Chalcots Estate residents' association chair Robert O'Toole says he asked Camden Council to make their advice consistent. Picture: ROBERT O'TOOLE Chalcots Estate residents' association chair Robert O'Toole says he asked Camden Council to make their advice consistent. Picture: ROBERT O'TOOLE

Residents say fire safety advice at the Chalcots Estate is “inconsistent, contradictory and confusing.”

As reported in the Ham&High, terrified families were forced to flee their homes on the Chalcots Estate in January 2012 after a fire broke out on the 17th floor of the Taplow building in Adelaide Road.

Following the blaze – believed to have started after a candle set papers alight – residents urged Camden Council to improve signs and make unclear advice on what to do in the event of a fire consistent.

According to the tenants’ handbooks, residents are advised to remain in their flats in the event of a fire.

However, signs in corridors tell people to “attack the fire if possible with the appliances provided” and to “leave the building”.

However, residents claim there are no fire extinguishers in the building and one sign seen by the Ham&High gives no details of a recommended escape route, number to call or assembly point.

Residents also received a third fire safety instruction to take themselves to a place of safety if a fire breaks out in the building.

Chair of the Burnham Residents’ Association Robert O’Toole – who claims he raised concerns over the safety advice in meetings with the council after the 2012 fire – said: “We want a consistent message. These are things I’m trying to fight for, but I shouldn’t be fighting for.

“It’s annoying because I have to keep fighting and repeating and repeating myself.”

Mr O’Toole– who has lived in the Burnham tower block on the estate for about 17 years and headed the association for the past 10 – added: “Now everybody is panicking saying there should be a sprinkler system.

“We’ve got to make sure the other buildings in Camden are safe. Now something has happened everybody at the council is jumping to get things done,” he said.

“Hopefully, our concerns will be dealt with very quickly,” Mr O’Toole added.

Camden council said in the light of the Grenfell Tower fire, safety reviews were being carried out on all its housing blocks.

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “We extend our sympathies to all of those affected by this tragedy as the terrible scale of its impact emerges. “We understand the concerns held by our residents and we are determined to move as quickly as we can to reassure them about the safety of their blocks.

“We know that cladding design on our buildings is not the same as that used on Grenfell but the council has already begun expert testing into the materials used and we will be in a position to report on this over the next two days.

“On-site testing from inside buildings has begun and cladding samples have been removed from buildings to be taken away and tested.

“In the mean time we have introduced a range of measures, over and above our already robust fire safety regime, to check and ensure that blocks are as safe as they can be.

“This additional assessment work includes a sweep of corridors to make sure they are clear of obstructions and anything that is potentially flammable.

“We will also be working with residents to test white goods, assessing fire doors in properties and we will be providing fire safety advice fire safety to residents.

“Our housing teams will be highly visible to our residents over the coming days and we want anyone who has any concerns to let us know so we can provide the information they need.

“In doing all of this work, the council is working side-by-side with district management committees, respective residents’ associations, our local MPs, and the London Fire Brigade, to check that fire safety measures and procedures within these buildings continue to meet the latest advice and guidance for all properties.

“We are ready to respond to any changes to fire safety advice following this tragic fire and we will provide a further update once testing has been completed,” she added.

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