Samuel Garside House fire: One year on from the blaze that ripped through Barking flats
- Credit: Archant
Today marks a poignant day in the Barking calendar.
It has been one year since the Samuel Garside House fire which destroyed 20 flats and damaged a further 10.
The immediate feeling was one of relief that there were no fatalities, but that quickly morphed into a collective desire for answers.
A total of 79 households were forced to flee, initially to stay at a rest centre set up at the Thames View Community Hall.
Though physically unharmed, the mental scars borne by those caught up in the blaze remain fresh, according to 39-year-old resident Mihaela Gheorghe.
She said: “We were offered the chance to do Talking Therapies. I did the 21 prescribed sessions, though I’ve been advised that I need more.”
Mihaela attributes her ongoing struggles to being unable to remove herself from the space which brings back such traumatic memories.
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She wants to sell the flat she has owned for seven years, but cannot because the fire has seen its value plummet. The Block D resident feels trapped; when asked to describe her mood, she answers simply: “I’m tired.”
Mihaela’s fatigue comes as a result of not having all the answers, with this battle still being fought on all fronts.
Three reports – two pending, one released – have been commissioned to give Mihaela and her fellow residents the answers they deserve.
An independent council report, published in October, revealed that the wood balconies which contributed to the fire in the first instance were still a hazard.
That wood has since been removed following a council motion in December 2019.
Two separate reports, by engineering firm Bureau Veritas (for the LFB), alongside a second commissioned by the council, are due for release in the coming months.
Their findings may offer some welcome clarity, though Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge is adamant that fire safety remains “a big national issue”.
She shared this message on the anniversary of the blaze: “I will not rest on this issue.
“The government has a responsibility to prevent another terrible fire, like the one in Barking, from ever happening again.”