Firefighters slam UK fire safety system as a 'complete failure' after Bolton student fire

16 November 2019, 18:10

Firefighters have slammed UK fire safety regulations following a student block of flats going up in flames in Bolton
Firefighters have slammed UK fire safety regulations following a student block of flats going up in flames in Bolton. Picture: LBC/PA

Firefighters have slammed the UK fire safety system as a "complete failure" after a fire in a block of student flats left two injured.

It took 40 firetrucks and around 200 firefighters hours to finally quell the flames on the six-storey building in Bolton - known as The Cube - in the early hours of this morning.

Witnesses claimed the fire was "crawling up the cladding like it was nothing" as people were being evacuated, with one having to be rescued by crews on an aerial platform.

Officials have confirmed everyone from the building has now been been accounted for and an investigation has been launched into the tragedy.

But the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have criticised how ineffective fire safety system is across the country, especially in the wake of the Grenfell Tower blaze in 2017 which claimed 72 lives.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “My congratulations go to the crews on the ground who did amazing work in incredibly difficult circumstances. This terrible fire highlights the complete failure of the UK’s fire safety system.

Two people were injured in last night's fire in Bolton
Two people were injured in last night's fire in Bolton. Picture: LBC News
It took around 200 firefighters to quell the flames last night
It took around 200 firefighters to quell the flames last night. Picture: PA

"It’s deeply troubling to see fire spread rapidly up a building’s exterior again - a shocking indictment of the government’s shameful inaction after Grenfell.

"This is not how any building should react to a fire in the 21st century, let alone a building in which people live. 

"We need to end the deregulation agenda and the disastrous cuts to our fire and rescue service. It's time for a complete overhaul of UK fire safety before it’s too late.”

Les Skarratts, FBU North West executive council member, also slammed recent cuts to the fire service since 2010, when the Conservatives came into power

“Firefighters on the ground have worked tirelessly to contain the fire and rescue residents,' he said.

" There will clearly be some hard lessons to learn as the circumstances become clearer in the coming days.

One person needed to be rescued by firefighters
One person needed to be rescued by firefighters. Picture: LBC News

"Greater Manchester has lost more than 600 firefighters since 2010 alone and, alarmingly, Andy Burnham is trying to cut another six fire engines, including one in Bolton. 

"We need to stop the senseless cuts to our fire and rescue service before we see another awful incident like this.”

Greater Manchester fire and rescue were on site within five minutes of the initial 999 call being made.

They were supported by firefighting units from the surrounding forces in Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire.

Two years ago students were assured that the building was not clad in the same dangerous materials as Grenfell Tower.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the scene of the fire to see for himself what damage had been done in last night's blaze.

The flames broke out last night
The flames broke out last night. Picture: Twitter

One student criticised fire safety in the building and said while alarms were set off in hallways, those in students' rooms were not - making the warnings difficult to hear.

Melissa McGarrigle said: "The fire alarms in the corridor went off but they aren't particularly loud, especially if you're asleep.

"It just doesn't feel real, everyone thought it was just the fire alarms acting up as usual until we heard people screaming."

Labour's Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has said The Cube does not have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower did, but does have a form which "causes concern and raises issues".

Ms McGarrigle said students were not warned of any potential cladding fire hazards when they moved into the flats.

"We were warned about nothing, thought The Cube was safe," she said.

Firefighers ensure everyone was evacuated
Firefighers ensure everyone was evacuated. Picture: PA

Ace Love, 35, said: "The fire kept getting more intense, climbing up and to the right because the wind was blowing so hard.

"We could see it bubbling from the outside and then being engulfed from the outside.

"A lot of students got out very fast, someone was very distressed, the rest were on phones calling for help.

"The fire got worse and worse, to the point where you could see through the beams, it was just bare frame."

Ryan Pardon, 24, was evacuated from a block next to The Cube due to smoke and compared the blaze to the Grenfell Tower fire.

"It was thick black smoke coming into our apartment... just couldn't see or breathe," Mr Pardon said.

"It sounds daft but you start thinking how you're going to get out, you start thinking you are in Grenfell Tower."

Asked about the Grenfell Tower comparison, Mr Pardon said: "It's not the same cladding but it's the same situation."

The Bolton local said he stayed at his brother's last night and has been told he cannot return to his home until Tuesday.