“I’m grateful to be alive, if it wasn’t for my neighbours banging on my door telling me to get out of my flat, I might not be here today,” said the owner of a flat in Barking Riverside that burnt on Sunday afternoon.
“There were no fire alarms ringing that we could hear, I could hear people outside shouting ‘get out, get out’, there’s fire and then my neighbours started banging on my door. It’s just awful.”
Fifteen fire engines and around 100 firefighters were called to the fire at the block of flats on De Pass Gardens in Barking.
The ground floor to the sixth floor of the block was alight when fire crews arrived. Twenty flats were destroyed by fire and a further ten flats were also damaged by heat and smoke.
Crews fought hard and managed to stop the blaze spreading laterally to affect adjoining premises. One man and one woman were treated on scene suffering from smoke inhalation.
The incident has left a sense of horror in local residents who feared the worse when they saw how quickly their block of flats caught alight and burnt.
Former firefighter Trevor McKeever has this week spoken to the Enquirer about the ongoing issues with flats and their safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. He said: “How many more times must we watch buildings go up in smoke where inappropriate building materials have been used, you would have thought with the disasters of Lakanal House, Grenfell, and numerous other building fires, this Government in conjunction with Building Contactors, HSE, BRE & all Fire & Rescue Services, would work together to come up with enforceable legislation not just recommendations.
“I believe that a catastrophic mistake was made in 2005 when fire regulations, switched from regulatory, to self-regulation, at that time the Fire Precautions Act was replaced by the Fire Safety Order.”
“The pace at which new materials, have become available and modern methods of construction have been implemented means the Fire Service is playing catch up when it comes to dealing with effective ways to fight fires in new buildings.
“We are fully aware that the tests that were carried out on the cladding and insulation installed at Grenfell were flawed, when you have companies that can influence Government bodies on how testing should be carried out you will never have the most effective kind of testing.
“The fire at Barking appears to have started on an external wooden balcony. What concerns me most is the rapid fire spread across all the adjoining balconies. There are products out there that will add protection to wood, but it comes at a price approximately £140.00 per 5 Litres.
“Questions need to be asked, are the building contractors still putting profit before safety, were the wooden balconies treated with a fire retardant material, is building control fit for purpose due to self-regulation, why are sprinkler systems not fitted as standard to all new builds and drenching systems not fitted to timber framed buildings.”
“In conclusion self-regulation is not the way forward for our building industry as it leaves building standards and quality open to misinterpretation or abuse. We need to build quality homes to the highest standard for our people, this should be a requirement not a recommendation.”