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Camden New Journal - by PAUL KEILTHY
Published: 12 July 2007
Why were fire doors at blaze block left faulty
for months?

Estates safety probe after tenants are trapped when smoke fills escape routes

FIRE chiefs are questioning Town Hall officials over repair failures that turned an 18-storey block of council flats into a potential death-trap.
The Town Hall has launched an immediate internal investigation into fire safety across 1,400 estates after warnings about missing and broken fire doors at Bucklebury block in Stanhope Street, Regent’s Park, were apparently ignored for months.
A blaze trapped families when fire escapes filled with choking smoke last month. Firefighters had to lead them to safety.
For many tenants, the midnight fire was the most harrowing experience of their lives. One resident, Burbuqe Arisa, said: “We were very lucky. It was terrible. I was holding my children and I thought each moment would be our last.”
Dozens were led from their flats by firefighters in breathing apparatus once the blaze was brought under control, having been told to place towels under their doors to keep out the worst of the billowing smoke.
Both the block’s emergency stairwells were stained black the morning after the blaze, visible evidence that the fire doors had failed.
Yesterday (Wednesday), three weeks after the fire, council officials admitted that two missing and several broken fire doors, which could have kept the stairwells clear, had been reported by housing staff months before the blaze – but still could not say why they had not been dealt with.
Sources within the housing department said the faults had been known for a year.
The fire brigade is conducting its own investigation into the incident, with a report due in two weeks.
A fire brigade spokeswoman said on Tuesday: “We are in discussions with the council about this particular incident. We’re aware of things that weren’t right, and we would be looking at a positive solution to find a way for the council to make improvements to fire safety.” Among options for the fire brigade is issuing the council with a warning or an enforcement notice.
Lib Dem housing chief Councillor Chris Naylor said: “It goes without saying that I am concerned about what happened at Bucklebury and that doors were being wedged open to prevent them closing.
“We are conducting an internal investigation and we will be happy to share the results of it when it is finished.”
He said that the council’s findings would be ready within the next two weeks.
A council press official added that a new health and safety expert had been appointed to conduct an immediate review.
He said: “Over the last year there have been ongoing problems with damaged and missing doors to the stairwells on the Bucklebury estate.”
The appointment of a health and safety expert was a chance to review procedures and see if there are areas for improvement, he added.

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