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Blaze spread through timber frames’ homes

13th August 2013
Posted by Ros Connors

Firefighters have blamed the wooden construction of council housing on the Felmores estate for the spread of a fire on the evening of Monday 29th July.

The comments have prompted politicians, including Baroness Angela Smith, to call for a full investigation into safety on the Basildon estate, which has been plagued by fires.

Six fire crews were scrambled to Bockingham Green after an initial report of a fire at 4.12pm.

One occupant had to be rescued by neighbours before the crews could arrive.

The blaze left one property gutted and caused damage to six others, forcing Basildon Council to relocate 20 residents to three hotels and two hostels.

An incident report by Essex County Fire and Rescue, filed as firefighters continued to tackle the blaze, blamed the construction of the properties for the spread of the fire.

The report, written 45 minutes after crews were called to the scene, stated: “The fire is spreading to several adjoining flats, owing to the building’s timber-framed construction.”

In a later incident report, a senior fire officer again criticised the construction of the buildings. Assistant divisional officer John Harris reported: “Crews did a magnificent job preventing the spread of the fire – with the construction of the flats and the location of the flat where the fire started at the corner of the block, their prompt action undoubtedly went a long way in preventing more damage.”

The blaze was the latest in a string of fires which have plagued the estate. In November 2009, 90 people had to be evacuated from the area following a large fire. In April 2012, five houses were damaged, two people were hospitalised and several families were left homeless in another inferno at the estate.

Former fire minister Baroness Angela Smith has joined forces with other Labour politicians to call for an immediate independent investigation into fire safety at the estate.

She said: “I think there is clearly a problem in the way fires spread in these buildings. The families there need to be absolutely confident that everything that can be done is being done. I would hope Basildon Council want that as well.” Baroness Smith, alongside councillors Gavin Callaghan and Melissa McGeorge and parliamentary candidate Mike Le Surf, will write to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to request a thorough investigation into the safety of the council properties.

Cllr Callaghan said: “This review needs to be conducted by a completely independent person – somebody who has never seen or heard of the Felmores estate before.”

Basildon Council said it did not see any need for an investigation. The authority, which has carried out all works recommended by fire experts following previous fires, said the spread of the fire was minimal and only caused external damage.

Police and fire officers are still investigating.

On Thursday 1st August, Ros Connors spoke to Martyn Dolton from The Yellow Advertiser and Paul Evans from Ash Fire Management during Drivetime. Hear what they had to say by listening above.