Flammable cladding, exposed gas pipes, no fire doors - why fire brigade evacuated fire trap Chalcots estate

PUBLISHED: 07:24 24 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:25 01 June 2018

Residents leave a tower block on the Chalcots Estate  as the building is evacuated  Stefan Rousseau/PA

Residents leave a tower block on the Chalcots Estate as the building is evacuated Stefan Rousseau/PA

Exposed gas pipes and inadequate fire doors are just some of the reasons in addition to the flammable cladding that the London Fire Brigade ordered the immediate evacuation of the Chalcots estate last night.

The move left hundreds of families, with newborn babies to a Second World War veteran, feeling angry and confused forced to spend the night on a mattress on the floor of Swiss Cottage leisure centre and facing a scramble for temporary accommodation today.

The shock move comes after cladding used on the high rises failed safety tests and was discovered to be flammable - similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, in West London, where 79 people are confirmed to have died after the blaze spread through the building.

In a statement explaining the sudden decision taken on a Friday night after a week of toing and froing, the London Fire Brigade said:

“London Fire Brigade have been working at the Chalcots Estate with Camden Council.

Residents leave the Taplow tower block  Stefan Rousseau/PA WireResidents leave the Taplow tower block Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“Following extensive joint visits and inspections the Brigade advised that there were a number of fire safety issues in the buildings and recommended that residents should not remain in the buildings until these issues are resolved.”

Among issues identified were a lack of insulation around gas pipes.

Camden council tweeted: “Decant was essential. @LondonFire identified issues around gas insulation & other concerns which with along with cladding issue means unsafe.”

Waiting for a minibus to take her family to a hotel six miles away, Zega Ghebre, 42, said the situation was “unbelievable”.

“I’ve got three children, an 11-year-old, a nine-year-old boy and a one-and-a-half year-old girl, she’s a baby.

“We couldn’t pack anything because we didn’t know where we are going, but hopefully we will get back,” she said as she stood outside Swiss Cottage Library, one of the emergency shelters in the shadow of the blocks.

She added: “We have been offered a hotel in Wembley now. Hopefully it won’t be long. If I’m there for weeks I don’t know how I’m going to deal with it.”

Earlier 94-year-old Peter Bertram, a former RAF aircraft hand and a resident of the estate for 46 years, said he was “shocked” by the ordeal.

He said: “It was a rush, I didn’t know anything. My neighbour told me ‘get this and that’. It happened so quick, I don’t have the energy for that now. It’s an experience, but it’s getting settled in again though.”

Renee Williams, 90, who has lived in Taplow tower since 1968, told the Press Association: “No official came and told us what’s going on, I saw it on the TV so I packed an overnight bag.

“But now they’re telling us we’re going to be out of our homes for the next two to four weeks.

“It’s unbelievable. I understand that it’s for our safety but they can’t just ask us to evacuate with such short notice. There’s no organisation and it’s chaos.”

As all the blocks were being evacuated Camden then decided that residents in one of the blocks, Blashford, could remain put.

Estate resident and Former Ham&High receptionist Pamela Gunsell added: “Go, leave, go leave. The latest at gone midnight is that Blashford residents can stay but disruptive work will be carried out during the night. Tonight is not about the cladding. Points were flagged up last night at the big meeting in the Library, and Camden have investigated and acted on their findings. Hats off to them; but most of us heard it from other sources. I heard it from a friend in Turkey.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision, and yes its disruptive; but a small price to pay for the awful possible consequences. Don’t forget what happened last week, God rest their souls. Another terrible disaster like that we definitely don’t want to see again.”

Related articles

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories


“French” conmen in Hampstead targeting drivers at parking meters have struck again, stealing £3500 from a Highgate woman.


These are pictures showing the final movements of a man who was found dead behind a takeaway in Golders Green on September 21.

Last week, the council had a brief debate about the most important decision this country will take in a generation, Brexit.

I’m delighted to see Alan’s Records (our Business of the Week) going strong after 24 years.

Yesterday, 17:49

A rainy Sunday failed to put any snouts out of joint as a band of determined Schnauzer-owners and their four-legged friends took to the Heath last weekend.

Yesterday, 17:02

Alan’s Records in East Finchley opened its doors in 1994 and now features in a guide to the top 80 record emporia around the globe.

Yesterday, 16:56

Mitzvah Day, the UK’s biggest faith-based day of social action, was launched in Parliament last week to a audience of MPs and peers.

Yesterday, 15:19

Three years after a controversial merger saw Torriano Primary School formed, teachers and governors are celebrating a top-of-the-class Ofsted rating that Camden Council’s education chief said “vindicated” the decision to amalgamate the schools.


Looking to get your child interested in a sport? Allianz Park, home to rugby union team Saracens, welcomes people of all ages to join their family of supporters and discover how their core values Honesty, Discipline, Humility and Work Rate underpin everything they do off and on the pitch.

As part of a major refurb, the London Marriott Hotel Maida Vale has renamed its three new-look function rooms to reflect the geography and rich history of the area. The largest, perfect for weddings and large meetings, is named after a Hampstead subterranean river, The Westbourne.

Londoners seeking high quality houses for sale within easy commuting distance of the capital are being advised to look north to St Albans’ prestigious Gabriel Square development.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now