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‘More than 1,000 fire doors missing from evacuated Chalcots tower blocks’

PUBLISHED: 11:55 27 June 2017 | UPDATED: 06:54 28 June 2017

London Fire Brigade found a host of fire safety failures inside the Chalcots tower blocks. Picture: ANNA BEHRMANN

London Fire Brigade found a host of fire safety failures inside the Chalcots tower blocks. Picture: ANNA BEHRMANN

Archant

More than 1,000 fire doors were missing from the Camden tower blocks evacuated on Friday, the goverment has revealed.

Other shocking fire safety failures included exposed gas pipes, inaccessible stairways and missing internal walls.

Following an urgent inspection on Friday, the London Fire Brigade ordered the immediate evaction of four of the high rise blocks, Bray, Burnham, Dorney and Taplow, on Adelaide Road.

Communites and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said the use of flammable cladding was “not the whole story” and said: “Clearly something has gone wrong there, drastically wrong.”

Mr Javid told MPs: “When the commissioners went into those tower blocks in Camden, in their own words, they found multiple fire safety inspection failures, failures which frankly should not have happened in tower blocks of any type, certainly those tower blocks in Camden.

Residents were forced to leave their homes in Taplow and other buildings on 23 June Stefan Rousseau/PA WireResidents were forced to leave their homes in Taplow and other buildings on 23 June Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“For example there were problems with gas pipe insulation, there were stairways that were not accessible, there were breaches of internal walls and most astonishingly there were hundreds, literally hundreds, of fire doors missing.

“The estimate by Camden Council itself is they need at least 1,000 fire doors because they were missing from those five blocks.

“So that had nothing to do with the cladding.

“Clearly something has gone wrong there, drastically wrong, but it’s an example when these issues need to be looked at very carefully this is happening in this day and age in our country.”

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

Evacuated residents have criticised Camden council for “longterm neglect” of the blocks and say they have been warning about conditions for years.

Chair of the Burnham Residents’ Association Robert O’Toole, who has lived in the Burnham tower block for 17 years claims he raised concerns over the fire safety in meetings with the council in 2012, including inconsistencies in fire safety advice.

He said: “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.”

Following the evacuation, the Ham&High, asked Camden Council how these conditions had not been acted on earlier. We have also asked for copies of fire safety reports for the last five years, including the inspection on Friday, but the council has refused to make them available.

But Camden Council leader Georgia Gould has admitted that the hazardous conditions inside the blocks should have been addressed earlier and has promised to get to the bottom of what went wrong.

She said: “The evacuation decision was taken to protect lives. While the Grenfell fire changes everything for us all, it should not take a tragedy to put extra focus on fire safety in buildings.

“Many residents have asked me questions about how these buildings reached the point where they had to be evacuated. I am determined to work with residents to get answers to all of these questions because I never want people to have to go through something like this again. My priority right now is to support residents and ensure they are appropriately housed, and ultimately to get them safely back into their homes as quickly as possible.

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