Residents complain over lack of fire safety measures

28 January 2019

The residents of the Balmoral blocks in Westcliff on Sea, Essex, have lodged a complaint against the housing management association, three years after a pregnant resident died in an arson attack.

Echo News reported on the campaign begun by the Balmoral Residents’ Association, which has lodged a letter of complaint against South Essex Homes that highlights a ‘catalogue of issues’ across three high rise blocks on the estate in the town. However, the residents believe that the campaign is ‘being ignored’, and are ‘furious action has not been taken’ to improve the blocks’ fire safety despite campaigning for three years.
They began their campaign after resident Khabi Abrey, who was eight months’ pregnant, died in an arson attack in the Grampian block in 2016, with Mrs Abrey said to have potentially been able to survive ‘if she had known her flat had a fire door’, but fire safety notices ‘were, and still are, missing’. In turn, intumescent strips around fire doors that are ‘meant to expand to seal the door’ in a fire, are also ‘still missing’.
In May 2018, the Grampian block alongside the Brecon and Blackdown high rises had fire safety assessments undertaken by Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, which banded all three ‘high risk’. Association chairman Terry Brown said: ‘Khabi’s body was found by the lifts and there were no fire safety signs. It was a nightmare. A tragedy. We don’t want something like this to happen again.
‘This is not something that would cost thousands of pounds. These are just basic requirements. South Essex Homes just pays lip service to the problems. They say they will do this and that but nothing ever happens.’
Colin Nickless, a fire safety campaigner in Southend, added: ‘There is a problem with gaps round fire doors in Balmoral but the problems are even worse in other tower blocks. I’ve seen pipes going through walls and cables going through air vents which are not protected. Last week I saw a flat with a missing letterbox.
‘Khabi Abrey died because of an arsonist. There’s not much you can do if someone decides to commit arson but at least you can make sure all the fire safety precautions are in place so a building is best placed to withstand that and I don’t think that is happening.’
In response, South Essex Homes said that fire safety was ‘of the highest priority’, with a spokeswoman commenting: ‘Notwithstanding the focus which the issue receives from our teams on a daily basis, there can never be any room for complacency. If any resident expresses a concern over fire safety risks, it is important their concerns are listened to and responded to as effectively as possible.
‘It is important in order to provide reassurance that we are ensuring fire safety measures are being maintained at the most effective level possible. We have already responded to this letter to reassure tenants that we share their desire to maintain the highest level of fire safety at all times, and have promised to write again very soon to specifically address the points raised in the letter.’
Residents complain over lack of fire safety measures