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Barking fire: Fears remain for the vulnerable as 24-hour marshals patrol building

PUBLISHED: 18:08 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:31 14 June 2019

Workers are in process of removing what remains of the burn wood cladding. Picture: Luke Acton.

Workers are in process of removing what remains of the burn wood cladding. Picture: Luke Acton.

Luke Acton

Residents have begun moving back to Barking Riverside building devastated by the fire on June 9, but the most vulnerable are still staying away from their homes.

Immediate changes to the flats include an audible fire alarm. The performance of the alarm and sprinkler system was a major concern for residents in the aftermath of the fire. Picture: Luke Acton.Immediate changes to the flats include an audible fire alarm. The performance of the alarm and sprinkler system was a major concern for residents in the aftermath of the fire. Picture: Luke Acton.

Fire wardens now patrol Samuel Garside House 24-hours-a-day, but fears remain around the development.

John Marquis cares for his wheelchair-bound mother, who's 81, with his four brothers. He lives on the first floor, three flats down from the blaze.

He said: "It doesn't' feel too bad, if truth be known. I think it's a lot safer now than it's ever been because of all the precautions that have been put in place."

He's comfortable in his flat, but his mother is still staying at the Premier Inn.

Residents are returning to their homes. Picture: Luke Acton.Residents are returning to their homes. Picture: Luke Acton.

"She's too scared to come back.

"On the day of the fire, it took her 12 minutes to get there and the building went up in four."

Mr Marquis said he's been told that the alarm and sprinkler system has been 'updated', but he admitted that he didn't know what that meant specifically.

"I feel fine. I'm an able-bodied person. If there are any problems, I know I could get out of it. If my mum was here, I wouldn't be fine."

Jacqueline Laoudi lives with her two daughters in the second floor of the adjoining building. They're too worried to move back into their home. Picture: Luke Acton.Jacqueline Laoudi lives with her two daughters in the second floor of the adjoining building. They're too worried to move back into their home. Picture: Luke Acton.

He's grown to like his home in the Riverside development. He's lived there for five years.

But with the fire and his mum's new fear, they've asked their housing association, Southern Housing, to find them a new place.

Beau Buckley, 36, has a similar attitude.

He lives with his wife. He feels safe enough in his home, an attitude he said he couldn't maintain if he had children.

Beau Buckley isn't as worried as he would be if he had a family. “It’s just my wife and I. We don’t have as many worries because it’s a little bit easier just for us to get out.Beau Buckley isn't as worried as he would be if he had a family. “It’s just my wife and I. We don’t have as many worries because it’s a little bit easier just for us to get out." Picture: Luke Acton.

"It's just my wife and I. We don't have as many worries because it's a little bit easier just for us to get out.

"When you're a family, you're thinking about you're kids sleeping at night."

The fire would have passed Mr Buckley by if his curtains had been drawn that Sunday. The first inkling of danger was seeing the fire crews and people pointing outside his window.

"I walked straight out of the building and that's when I saw the whole road flooded with people and that's when I saw the building up on fire."

Picture: Luke Acton.Picture: Luke Acton.

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He and his wife now keep a 'fire bag' in case something happens again. It has all their important documents, an extinguisher and a fire blanket.

They'll grab it on their way out.

He's relying on companies' dread of another fire to make sure they follow-through on improvements.

Some of the panelling is being removed to create 'fire breaks' to stop the spread of a potential blaze. Picture: Luke Acton.Some of the panelling is being removed to create 'fire breaks' to stop the spread of a potential blaze. Picture: Luke Acton.

The Post has seen Southern Housing and Barking Riverside letters outlining the measures being put in place to help reassure residents (neither of those organisations are responsible for them).

New fire marshals patrolling 24-hours-a-day are replacing the 12-hour night watches.

The non-fire-retardant wood cladding is being removed in places to slow the spread of future fires - known as 'fire breaks'.

Fire retardant is also being sprayed on the timber, ahead of it being completely removed.

The shell of flats remain uncovered at the scene of the fire. Picture: Luke Acton.The shell of flats remain uncovered at the scene of the fire. Picture: Luke Acton.

Not everyone is as worried.

Donnel Grant is 19 and is a student at Warwick. He lives with his mother on the first floor of an adjoining building.

"I do feel safe, but I am young, adults have been complaining, they don't feel safe. They want the wood changed outside.

"They feel uncomfortable, because if the same thing happens, what's to stop it?"

Household have begun returning to their homes after a blaze tore up the building on De Pass Gardens. Picture: Luke Acton.Household have begun returning to their homes after a blaze tore up the building on De Pass Gardens. Picture: Luke Acton.

He's preparing for exams and was also glad to have access to his notes, which was impossible the day after the incident.

Jacqueline Laoudi's daughter is also preparing for exams, but the thought of returning home is just too stressful for her.

Ms Laoudi moved into the flat six years ago, just as the building was being finished.

She's concerned about the maintenance of the new fire safety measures over the long-term. It's a question of trust.

In the direst aftermath Grenfell, the resident's association asked Bellway what assurances it had that the same thing couldn't happen at the Riverside development.

In an email, a representative for the builders said it was reviewing designs in light of the tragedy. It also assured them the building was in line with regulations.

Ms Laoudi said: "Why is it that something dreadful has to happen before they do anything?"

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