Camden News - by CHARLOTTE CHAMBER and SARA NEWMAN Published: 24 July 2008
The huge blaze engulfs Camden Lock, above. Left, how the New Journal reported the fire
Market traders were warned on danger heaters
Stallholders told not to use LPG devices that Fire Brigade say led to massive Camden Lock fire
MANAGERS at the market destroyed in the Camden fire had banned traders from using the type of gas heater thought to be behind February’s massive blaze. An official Fire Brigade report – released after repeated enquiries from the New Journal – said the fire which ravaged the canalside market at the Lock before spreading to neighbouring properties and wrecking the Hawley Arms pub, had begun on a clothes stall.
“A detailed investigation, including reports from scientific advisers, determined that the cause of the fire was an LPG heater left turned on, igniting adjacent materials within one of the stalls,” the report said. “The stall sold clothing. Remains of hangers were found on and below the rail and also entangled within the front of the protective grille of the portable LPG heater.”
Council recommendations state LPG – liquified petroleum gas – heaters should only be used for stalls that need them for making food.
There is no action being taken against any individual trader and no suggestion of malice.
Camden Market Holdings Limited, the company in charge of the market, insisted yesterday (Wednesday) that it had maintained fire safety standards and barred the use of the gas heaters.
CMH spokesman Piers Codling said: “We had released the regulations that are all about health and safety and we have to continue to maintain that they are applied. There’s nothing sensational in this. We have people who are trained in health and safety.”
His company is currently in talks with Camden Council’s planners to see how the area, known as Hawley Wharf, might be rebuilt.
Earlier this year, Mr Codling said it was near impossible to keep a 24-hour eye on traders to monitor fire safety standards, adding: “We are responsible for the overall grounds, but individual traders are responsible for their own stalls. We walk around to make sure things are safe but you could go around the market and tell a trader to stop doing something silly and he may stop while you are there – but once you are gone he might start doing it again.”
Alex Proud, chairman of business group Camden Town Unlimited, said: “If Camden Market Holdings told people they shouldn’t use heaters, they shouldn’t use heaters. I’m not a great believer in the nanny state. If you’ve been told not to use something then the responsibility lies with you.”
Traders said they had been warned about the heaters last year and reminded again after the fire.
But CMH have been urged to look carefully at fire safety in their other markets and on future developments.
Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson said: “It’s a year since I started campaigning for greater attention to safety at various parts of the Camden Lock market and I still don’t believe that the arrangements are as safe as they should be or could be.”
Ruth Mottram, who is one of the licensees at The Hawley Arms, said: “What I find really frustrating is that pubs are governed by specific and strict regulations yet a market place seems to be regulated by nothing. We have suffered severe damage through something that was no fault of our own.”
Labour ward councillor for Camden Town and Primrose Hill Pat Callaghan said: “What were the market fire safety officers doing allowing heaters like that in an area with lots of people passing through? “The problem with that market was it was very old.”
Her Lib Dem counterpart councillor Libby Campbell added: “It’s a tragic accident. “In my mind the stalls were too close together and there was a fire risk there.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Camden Council don’t own the stalls. “The owner of Canal Street Market, Camden Market Holdings is responsible for making sure its individual stallholders comply with health and safety legislation. “Individual stallholders and traders also bear this responsibility.”