West Hampstead fire ‘under control’: Eight fire crews called to blazing balconies in Orwell Building

PUBLISHED: 11:57 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:44 05 July 2018

The block on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

The block on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey


Neighbours have described the terrifying moment fire ripped through four balconies in a new build West Hampstead block this morning.

Eight fire crews and 58 firefighters and officers were scrambled to the scene at 11.25am. London Fire Brigade said the first crew - from West Hampstead - arrived within three minutes.

The cause of the fire is not known at this stage, and it is not known whether anyone is injured, although London Ambulance Service confirmed on Twitter it had not treated any patients.

The brigade confirmed it had brought the incident under control at 1.10pm.

One woman, Teuta, lives in the Orwell flats with her husband and their three children, ages two, six and 10.

She told the Ham&High: “The school called to say that one of the flats was on fire because a teacher knows I live in the block. By the time I got back the whole building was on fire. It was horrible because I’m a refugee and I have seen my house and my neighbours’ houses burned down before.”

Tim Gordon told the Ham&High: “I was one of the first to see it. I wanted to stop it myself, it was so small and contained.

“It was on a balcony on the second floor. When the fire services came, they had no water pressure, so it took ages, and the water pressure they had was too weak.”

Former Chelsea and West Ham football manager Avram Grant, who lives nearby, told TalkSport: “I saw a lot of smoke and just ran.”

The building on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe building on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

West Nine shopkeeper Surendran, who asked us not to print his surname, claims he was the first person to call the brigade. He said: “The smoke was black and everyone ran away.

“It was just a small fire but suddenly it burst up.”

In all the brigade said it took more than 40 calls and confirmed they had no water pressure problems while fighting the fire.

Annie Baker, who owns The Village Haberdashery, which is adjacent to the Orwell flats, said: “It was one of the scariest things I have seen in my life.

Firefighters putting out the blaze in West Hampstead on Tuesday morning. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyFirefighters putting out the blaze in West Hampstead on Tuesday morning. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

“We had to evacuate all the customers out of the shop.”

Another mother, who lives in the flats with her two kids and husband, asked to remain anonymous. She said: “I’m terrified. How is it possible for the fire to spread so quickly through this new building?”

Another neighbour said: “I smelt it before I saw it. Then I just saw the thick, black smoke. It was terrifying.”

John Richter, 32, who has lived in the Orwell flats for five months, said: “I was just sitting down and then I saw the smoke coming around my balcony.”

The building on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyThe building on fire in West Hampstead. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

John Thornton of Sumatra Road, said: “I saw it start and it was really scary. You would assume things like this would not happen any more.

“It’s unbelievable how quickly a fire can spread through a building.”

Ballymore, which jointly owns the development with Network Rail, has sent a team, including its managing director, to the scene, where it is working with the emergency services and people affected.

A spokeswoman said: “We will be rehousing all residents affected. We can confirm that fire has been put out but that damage to property is still being assessed.”

She added no one was thought to have been in the flat where the fire started.

The nearby Sherriff Centre at St James’s Church in Sherriff Road was this afternoon looking after 20 or so people from the building who have been forced out of their homes.

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