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Barking fire: Politician went into burning block to alert neighbours to blaze

PUBLISHED: 16:30 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:38 10 June 2019

London Assembly Member Andrew Boff. Picture: Paul Bennett

London Assembly Member Andrew Boff. Picture: Paul Bennett

Archant

For Andrew Boff, chairman of the London Assembly's planning committee, shouting from the street was the first sign of the devastating blaze that had taken hold close to his Barking Riverside home.

The blaze engulfed six floors of the block of flats. Picture: @mobee_me /PA WireThe blaze engulfed six floors of the block of flats. Picture: @mobee_me /PA Wire

"I looked out of my window and was astonished at the flames - there were only two stories alight at that point," he said.

Mr Boff lives around 100 yards from were the blaze in De Pass Gardens destroyed 20 homes.

As he went outside he could feel the fire on his face. People living closer to the fire had some of the windows crack from the heat.

He and other neighbours, seeing the balconies aflame, ran to tell people inside what was happening on the face of the building.

London assembly member Andrew Boff praised fire cadet instructor Taylor Dodd for his work at the Barking fire. Picture: Andrew Boff/Twitter.London assembly member Andrew Boff praised fire cadet instructor Taylor Dodd for his work at the Barking fire. Picture: Andrew Boff/Twitter.

"I rushed in and other people rushed in as well to get people out, to knock on the doors and alert people to the seriousness of the situation," he said.

One of the things that stuck with him when he went into the building is how quiet it was.

"When I went in it was almost silent. The only thing you could hear was the smoke alarms from some of the kitchens, but there were no fire alarms going off.

"Even though from the outside we could see how bad the fire was getting, they didn't know that inside the building.

"On a couple of the doors I knocked on, people were aware that something was going on, but they weren't aware of the severity.

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"It was incredible how quick this thing was. It would be all too easy to assume that it would be contained. Of course, it wasn't."

He added: "We had been there for about three minutes, I think. By the time I got out of the building all five of the stories were alight.

"It was astonishing how quickly the fire had spread to the other floors."

When the London Fire Brigade arrived, they were joined by Barking resident Taylor Dodd, who lives close by.

The 17-year-old fire cadet instructor helped the firefighters douse the blaze.

Mr Boff commented on Twitter: "[It's] proof the cadet programme works."

As chair of the planning committee, Mr Boff helps scrutinise the mayor's decisions around building and development.

After Grenfell and now the fire in De Pass Gardens, he wants more input from the London Fire Brigade on new construction.

"In post-Grenfell work, we need to see more notice taken of what the London Fire Brigade has to say.

"We're going to have a look again now at other developments throughout London."

The building's management organisation Residential Management Group and developer Bellway have been contacted for comment.

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