Residents slam ‘lack of safety improvements’ after flat fire near Grenfell Tower
Many of those living in Markland House said they heard no alarms.
A fire at a block of flats close to Grenfell Tower has sparked outrage among residents, who criticised what they said was a lack of safety improvements since the 2017 blaze that killed 72 people.
About 70 firefighters and 10 engines were sent to a 12th-floor balcony at Markland House in Darfield Way, Notting Hill, west London, on Friday morning.
But many of those living in the tower block said they heard no alarms and that the hoses used by London Fire Brigade (LFB) only reached to around the fifth floor – just halfway towards where the blaze broke out.
A number of residents said they had been alerted by the smell of smoke or neighbours knocking on their doors and telling them to get out of the building.
Some described the “horrendous memories” of the Grenfell Tower fire, which they had witnessed, and told of their fear as they quickly left their flats.
Samantha Findley, 41, said she smelled what she thought was burning plastic in the tower block – less than half a mile from Grenfell Tower – and immediately left her 10th-floor flat.
She told the PA news agency: “I smelled it. So I thought ‘Let me get out, I’m out’.
“I grabbed my keys, my phone. I’m out. I’m not seeing where it is or anything. I’m out.”
She added: “I was concerned. I was very fearful.”
Looking at the block and pointing towards Grenfell Tower, she said: “That’s Grenfell there, as you can see. That was my first instinct when I smelled smoke. Everyone is thinking of Grenfell.”
Dhin Chittenden said she cried as she ran down the steps from her 11th-floor flat.
The 26-year-old receptionist, who has lived in the building with her husband for a month, said she was already fearful about another Grenfell Tower-type tragedy before Friday’s fire.
Standing in her slippers, she said: “I kept thinking about that. If it’s happened somewhere else then it could happen again.”
Those I spoke to heard no alarms go off. Another man said: “No sprinklers. No alarms, nothing.— Aine Fox (@aine_fox) August 23, 2019
"You would think after Grenfell they would have learned and listened. I just don't think they care about this part of the community." pic.twitter.com/TQrPIgUdH1
Billy Hunt, who had been sleeping after a night shift but was woken by the smell of what he thought was cigar smoke, said he does not feel safe living in the tower block.
Mr Hunt, who knocked on neighbours’ doors on his way out to alert them to the blaze, said he heard no alarms, adding: “They should be going off all over the place, especially after Grenfell.”
The 57-year-old, who has lived in Markland House for 27 years, said someone told him the fire hose had only reached the fifth floor, and called that “ridiculous”.
He said: “Especially after Grenfell, they should have all these technologies by now.
He said the situation brought back “horrendous memories” of Grenfell burning, which he saw from his balcony.
Another man, named Dawan, who was staying in a seventh-floor flat, said there were “no sprinklers, no alarms, nothing”.
He added: “You would think after Grenfell they would have learned and listened. I just don’t think they care about this part of the community.”
A spokesman for Kensington and Chelsea Council said the block’s “stay put” policy means residents outside the affected flat would not hear an alarm.
Miguel Alves, who survived the Grenfell Tower blaze, was passing the area when he saw fire engines and police.
Sharing concerns about an apparent lack of changes since 2017, he said: “By the look of it there’s still no ladders to reach that high.
“And the water will not reach that high also. It’s very concerning to me, especially what I’ve been through.”
Mr Alves was one of the first residents to discover the Grenfell Tower fire, and several residents on the 13th floor where he lived were woken by his knocking and decided to flee that building, contrary to fire brigade advice.
Local councillor Mohammed Bakhtiar said he did not believe firefighters had “the right equipment” to deal with high-rise blazes.
A spokeswoman for LFB said: “Firefighters fought the fire internally using hoses which were plugged into the building’s dry rising main, as we would normally do with fires in high-rise buildings.
“Crews also used hoses from the ground to provide additional water to help prevent the fire from spreading from the balcony.”
Firefighters were called at 11.39am about “smoke issuing” from a building, with 999 control officers taking 27 calls to the incident.
The fire was under control shortly before 1pm.
Scotland Yard said there were no reports of any injuries, while LFB and Kensington and Chelsea Council said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
Residents were being gradually let back into the building on Friday afternoon and the council said one family had been rehoused in a nearby hotel.
A respite centre was opened in Frinstead House in Notting Hill.
Kim Taylor-Smith, deputy leader of the council, said: “Obviously, we will need to investigate the causes of the fire, but at the moment I am just thankful that everyone is safe.
“This community saw the Grenfell tragedy happen two years ago and I am fully aware of the impact that had on individuals.
“Our officers were on site quickly, with NHS colleagues, and a respite centre opened for anyone who needs support.
“We provided water and items for children such as milk and nappies.
“If the resulting investigation finds anything wrong with the safety of the building, we will take immediate action.”