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Three escape Whitechapel tower block blaze thanks to new fire safety door just fitted

PUBLISHED: 12:33 25 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:02 01 September 2020

Gutted... blaze that wrecked kitchen on 7th floor of Kerry House in Sidney Street. Picture: LBTH

Gutted... blaze that wrecked kitchen on 7th floor of Kerry House in Sidney Street. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

A newly-fitted fire safety door prevented a serious blaze spreading in a tower block of flats in Whitechapel which gave three people time to escape.

All that's left of the fridge-freezer destroyed in blaze at Kerry House. Picrture: LBTHAll that's left of the fridge-freezer destroyed in blaze at Kerry House. Picrture: LBTH

The blaze gutted the kitchen of a seventh-floor flat at Kerry House in Sidney Street last Friday, but the tenants managed to get out unharmed.

The fire door held back the flames and prevented them spreading to the rest of the top-floor rented flat.

It could have been worse had it not been for the safety fire door Tower Hamlets Council says it insisted last September that the private landlord installs.

Housing officers had intervened to instruct the landlord to fit the door with a fire detection system in the flat.

“This incident could have had tragic consequences,” mayor John Biggs said this week.

“The protective barrier provided by the door gave emergency fire crews the time to tackle the flames and make sure the people were safe.”

It was the “crucial intervention of housing officers” to make the property safe for multiple occupancy, the council points out.

The incident is being used by the authority “as a reminder to landlords to ensure their properties have the correct safety measures” in place.

The fire is believed to have been started by an electrical fault in the fridge-freezer, but the fire door with smoke seals prevented the flames spreading to the rest of the property, while the smoke detection system alerted the tenants.

Deputy Mayor Sirajul Islam said: “Our work with landlords and those living in these properties is essential if we are to raise safety standards in the private rented sector. Avoiding a tragic outcome in this fire shows why that is so important.”

The owner was accepted onto the council’s selective licensing scheme once the fire safety measures were installed and met housing officers inspections in November.

The scheme applies to all rented properties in Whitechapel, Spitalfields and parts of Bethnal Green, which has been running since 2016 for all privately-rented properties including smaller multiple-occupancies where three or four people are living in two or more separate households sharing facilities.

Last Friday’s blaze at Kerry House is being used as an example by the council for a public consultation in the coming weeks on whether to renew the selective licensing scheme for a further five years from September next year.


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