"A Perfect Bonfire": LBC Investigation Finds Safety Shortfalls In Barking Estate After Fire Destroyed 20 Homes

11 June 2019, 18:03 | Updated: 11 June 2019, 18:15

An LBC investigation has found faulty fire doors, broken smoke alarms and combustible cladding in a block of flats in Barking on the same estate where a huge fire broke out on Sunday.

Nearly two years after the Grenfell disaster, residents in the Barking Riverside Estate say their safety concerns have been ignored. 

Two people were treated for smoke inhalation after a fire engulfed a six-story block of flats on Sunday, leaving 20 homes destroyed and 10 others damaged.

LBC's Rachael Venables took chartered surveyor and fire safety expert Arnold Tarling to one of the neighbouring blocks, who described exterior wooden cladding as "the perfect bonfire".

"There are vertical timbers, which the fire will spread up, we have horizontal decorative timbers and you have horizontal decking timbers," he said.

"And the only thing separating them is a piece of flammable plastic to stop items dropping through.

"Now this is built like a crib that you would use in fire testing because wood burns pretty well, and you've got a perfect bonfire here."

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The fire destroyed 20 homes and damaged 10 on Sunday
The fire destroyed 20 homes and damaged 10 on Sunday. Picture: London Fire Brigade

A spokesperson for builders Bellway said the building's construction "minimised the spread" of the fire into the building, and will look at replacing the timber cladding and balconies to provide "peace of mind" to residents.

"The recent fire at Samuel Garside House in Barking, a low rise block of apartments, is a very serious issue and we are working with all relevant parties to establish how this happened and help deal with those affected.

"The construction and design of Samuel Garside House minimised the spread of fire into the building itself and facilitated its safe evacuation.

"Notwithstanding this, we are looking at further fire safety measures which may include replacing the timber cladding and balconies in order to provide peace of mind to residents at Samuel Garside House and neighbouring Ernest Websdale House.

"When any building is completed the required fire safety information is handed over to the managing agent as Responsible Person under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to enable them to arrange for the necessary ongoing fire risk assessments to be conducted by their nominated expert. 

"Where issues are identified as part of this fire risk assessment, such as those noted in your report, action should be taken in accordance with the fire risk strategy for the block.

"As a responsible developer and in light of the issues you have raised, we will look at the building with the building owner and the Responsible Person to see if there are further steps that we or others should be taking."

In response to the investigation, a London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: "The building owner is responsible for fire safety measures and needs to maintain an up to date fire risk assessment.

"We are working with the local authority, building company and the management company to address any fire safety issues to ensure residents feel safe when returning to their homes.

"Our fire safety team has carried out a visit to both the affected block and a neighbouring block of the same construction."

Watch the investigation in the video above.

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