Tower response

Local authorities and landlords issue safety guidance in wake of London fire

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Authorities across the north have responded in the wake of the fire in Grenfell Tower, London, which has so far claimed the lives of 30 people.

Reassurances are being issued to residents in similar high-rise buildings about the safety procedures in place and what to do should anyone suspect their home is vulnerable.

Leeds City Council is responsible for 116 multi-storey blocks across the city and these range in age and height, from five to 24 storeys.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We have an excellent working relationship with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service and have signed up to a concordat that jointly looks at fire safety issues, which was set up to look at improving fire safety in our high-rise stock across the city.

“Furthermore detailed inspections are also undertaken by our housing officers on a quarterly basis to every high-rise block in the city.”

Chris Kirby, area manager for fire safety at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, admitted fires that begin in tower blocks do cause difficulties but said everything is done to minimise this risk.

“Fire should not spread in the way that it did in London.”

He said: “High-rise buildings inherently create challenges to fire-fighting due to their design. We do collect information on such premises, and our firefighters are trained and equipped to respond to fires in high-rise buildings.

“The design of such buildings is that any internal fire within a high-rise should be contained to the flat where the fire started and the fire should not spread in the way that it did in London.”

He added: “We continue to work with local authority partners, landlords and managing agents across West Yorkshire to promote best practice.”

A spokesperson for the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service commended the effort made by its counterparts in London and said: “Our thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by this devastating tragedy in London, as well as our colleagues in the London Fire Brigade who have been working incredibly hard under very difficult circumstances.”

Although the cause of the rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire is as yet unknown, landlords have spoken out to reassure residents that their safety is of the utmost importance.

Tower blocks are the responsibility of either councils or arm’s length management organisations (ALMOs), set up in 2002. Large numbers of council homes have been transferred to ALMOs, with the promise of a greater involvement from tenants.

Northwards Housing manages a number of high-rise blocks on behalf of Manchester City Council. Robin Lawler, chief executive of Northwards Housing, has spoken of the “robust fire safety systems in place”.

He said: “In light of this incident, and similar to many other housing providers, we’ll be carrying out a full review of these arrangements.”

Salix Homes owns and manages 8,500 homes across central Salford, Beechfarm and Rainsough Brow including 17 high-rise tower blocks.

Lee Sugden, Salix Homes chief executive, said: “Several of our tower blocks have recently undergone multi-million pound improvements and this includes the enhancement of fire safety measures. We also provide and fit smoke detectors in all our properties.

Liverpool Mutual Homes has delivered letters to all tenants to try to allay fears

“The safety of our customers is our utmost priority and we are confident that the safety procedures we have in place will keep our customers safe.”

Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH), which is responsible for Marwood Towers and Baden House tower blocks, has delivered letters to all tenants to try to allay fears.

In a statement LMH acknowledged that media speculation had fallen on cladding as a potential cause for this disaster.

Cladding is used to cover or coat a structure or material. Depending on the type of cladding used, it can help to protect buildings from external elements and provide insulation.

LMH said: “LMH’s recently refurbished block at Marwood Towers was improved using cladding of the highest fire retardant rating standard with appropriate fire-stops used at each floor level. This is not the same cladding used at Grenfell Tower.

“LMH undertakes a regular fire safety inspection programme at all its communal areas and in the wake of the tragedy in London will continue to review those assessments in accordance with best practice.”

Should anyone have any concern over a high-rise building, fire services have issued contact details to get in touch.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service: 0800 555 815.
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service: 0800 731 5958,
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service: Anyone in South Yorkshire can also request a home safety check by calling 0114 253 2314.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service: request a home visit at Telephone number: 0800 5874536.

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