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'Recycle paper' tower block safety hazard, warns fire chief

PUBLISHED: 18:43 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:24 05 October 2010

A FIRE chief is calling for tightening up of the practice of leaving paper for recycling outside flats in tower blocks—because of a fire safety hazard it causes. It follows a blaze in the middle of the night when piles left for recycling were set alight by vandals at the eight-storey Lister House in Lomas Street, Whitechapel, at 1.45am today (Friday). More than 40 families were unable to be evacuated because of the blaze in the entrance lobby

Mike Brooke

A FIRE chief is calling for tightening up of the practice of leaving paper for recycling outside flats in tower blocks—because of a fire safety hazard it causes.

It follows a blaze in the middle of the night when piles left for recycling were set alight by vandals at the eight-storey Lister House in Lomas Street, Whitechapel, at 1.45am today (Friday).

More than 40 families were unable to be evacuated because of the blaze in the entrance lobby.

Senior watch manager Richard Welch, who led this-morning’s fire-fighting team, says tenants are putting themselves at risk leaving sacks of paper on their doorsteps.

“We couldn’t lead the families through the smoke,” he told the East London Advertiser.

“So we advised them to stay indoors with the windows and doors shut to keep the smoke out of their homes while we dealt with the blaze.”

The families were woken up by smoke filling the corridors. The lobby was badly scorched, affecting their escape route.

But fire crews s prevented flames spreading to any of the flats and there was no structural damage.

“The danger was caused by paper left out for recycling,” the fire chief added.

“People leave it out all week rather than keeping it in their homes.

“But that’s a risk as recycle paper is a temptation when vandals set it alight.”

He urged: “Tenants should put out recycling as late as possible, on collection days, to reduce the risk.”

A report on the fire hazard is now being prepared by investigators.

Recycling collections have only recently been introduced in high rise blocks after pressure on Tower Hamlets council, which has been languishing at the bottom of the national league table for local authority recycling.

Now the dangers emerging have put a new twist on the issue.

Recycling collections were banned only last month by neighbouring Hackney council because of the now-apparent risk of fires in tower blocks.


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