Pensioners' night of terror as fire sweeps through homes
PUBLISHED: 16:48 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 15:29 07 September 2010
PENSIONERS were evacuated in their nightshirts as a fire ripped through sheltered housing in Child s Hill. Thirty elderly residents of Garth House in Granville Road were woken to rising flames, fire engine sirens and rescue crews knocking down their doors
PENSIONERS were evacuated in their nightshirts as a fire ripped through sheltered housing in Child's Hill.
Thirty elderly residents of Garth House in Granville Road were woken to rising flames, fire engine sirens and rescue crews knocking down their doors.
Luckily they all escaped unharmed while 100 firefighters battled the blaze on Sunday morning.
"Some of us were woken by sirens, alarms and smoke, and others by an axe through the door and two firemen hauling us out of bed," said Muriel Fraser, who was evacuated.
"Barnet Homes staff bundled us in red blankets and bussed us to another Barnet Home, where we were given tea and sympathy by half a dozen staff who'd been woken up to care for us."
The fire gutted the top floor of the sheltered housing block and caused the roof to cave in. The entire block is now uninhabitable.
It took more than four hours before the flames were under control at 7.45am.
"I saw lots of thick black smoke that came into the house, it was awful," said Pauline Drayson, from nearby Crewys Road.
"We had to shut our windows. What seemed like millions of fire engines arrived around 4am. It was frightening. For all of Sunday you could still smell that acrid smell of smoke."
Garth House is run by Barnet Homes on behalf of Barnet Council and consists of self contained bedsits and flats.
Since the fire tragedy, residents have been accommodated elsewhere at care homes and with friends and family.
Child's Hill Cllr Monroe Palmer said: "We visited 20 residents who had been displaced and one man was in his nightshirt without any trousers, obviously feeling quite vulnerable. There were also women is nightdresses. A hamster was the last one out, and it was reunited with its owner.
"Barnet Homes, the police and the fire department were absolutely magnificent. We can thank God no one was killed.
"This block was under threat of a redevelopment plan, and until what happens to that plan is decided I cannot see Garth House being rebuilt in its current form."
Fellow Child's Hill Cllr Jack Cohen said: "It's a scene of devastation. I can't see the residents ever returning.
"Many are elderly and confused by events, having left the scene in their nightclothes.
"Local residents are shocked by this. I am worried by how the residents are going to be relocated in the long run. They don't know if it's safe to return to get their possessions.
"They should be re-housed in sheltered accommodation near were they used to live, near their doctors and the shops they know."
A spokesman for Barnet Homes, which runs the sheltered accommodation, said: "A serious fire broke out during the early hours of Sunday morning destroying Garth House, a sheltered housing scheme in Cricklewood catering for 30 older residents.
"The majority are now in hotel accommodation with Barnet Homes' staff on hand to ensure they are safe and well cared for.
"Fortunately, there were no injuries and staff are now assessing the immediate and longer term needs of residents."
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation by the fire brigade.