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Barking fire: Residents’ fury over lack of alarms after fleeing tower block blaze

PUBLISHED: 12:05 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 15:24 23 April 2018

Fire broke out at Anderson House early Thursday morning, forcing about 80 residents to flee their homes. Picture: Alex Shaw

Fire broke out at Anderson House early Thursday morning, forcing about 80 residents to flee their homes. Picture: Alex Shaw

Alex Shaw

Residents who woke to screaming and smoke as fire broke out in their tower block on the Gascoigne Estate in Barking have voiced safety concerns about the building.

A faulty immersion heater sparked flames in a 10th floor flat, forcing a woman and five children to flee their home. Picture: Alex Shaw A faulty immersion heater sparked flames in a 10th floor flat, forcing a woman and five children to flee their home. Picture: Alex Shaw

“There’s no water sprinklers, there’s no communal alarm,” said 59-year-old Sylvia Clark, who lives on the ground floor of Anderson House, which is scheduled for demolition.

Around 80 people fled the high-rise in The Coverdales when a faulty immersion heater sparked flames in a 10th floor flat last Thursday.

“I was asleep and I heard my children screaming: ‘Mummy — fire, fire’,” said floor 11 resident Joyce Nimoh, 42.

Immediately, she smelt smoke coming from the flat below, flat 63. Taking nothing with them, the family of four thought only to run into the corridor and down the stairwell.

As in number 63, the mother of two’s immersion heater sits in a cupboard next to her front door — the only way in or out.

While Joyce says her daughter heard a smoke alarm, other residents on the ground, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th floors complain the only warnings of the fire they received were shouts or banging on their doors.

This noise, said Janet Asare Mensah on floor nine, woke her husband at about 1.30am.

“My husband opened the window and peeked through, and saw a lot of people already down,” the 46-year-old added.

“We didn’t hear [an alarm], because we don’t have any alarms in the corridors. It’s only in the room.”

Accompanied by five fire engines, 31 firefighters took an hour to battle the blaze after being called to the 12-storey building shortly after 2am.

Flames destroyed part of flat 63, though no-one was reported injured.

The occupants, a woman and five children, managed to escape before crews arrived. They are said to have been moved to a nearby hostel, refusing to return.

A spokesman for Barking and Dagenham Council, which manages the building, said a “robust fire safety plan” was in place including inspecting communal areas every three months.

“The heat and smoke alarm fitted in this property alerted the residents and they were all able to safely leave the property and escape without any injuries,” he said.

“The fire was contained within the airing cupboard in the flat and did to spread to any other parts of the block.”

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