New Haddo Greenwich

LONDON FIRE Brigade (LFB) firefighters were called out to a fire at a block clad in combustible materials, with the blaze in the cabin housing the waking watch installed at the block.

The Independent reported on the fire at the New Haddo development in Greenwich, which saw LFB crews attend to ‘extinguish a blaze in the cabin’ housing the waking watch ‘hired to protect the development’. A witness called LFB and reported smoke coming from the temporary building, with the area ‘quickly declared safe’, but residents called the incident ‘highly concerning’ and fire safety expert Stephen Mackenzie said the fire could have ‘caused a serious incident’.

Mr Mackenzie added that the cabin ‘was parked directly under combustible balconies [and] potentially combustible EPS’ or expanded polystyrene render, with the news outlet also noting that a fire in one of the flats at the development in December ‘was missed by the waking watch patrol’, who ‘were not alerted until several minutes after firefighters arrived on the scene’.

On this, Mr Mackenzie said that the two incidents have ‘again raised questions about the effectiveness of waking watch patrols’ that have been ‘mandated at hundreds of blocks’, and called the provision of patrols an ‘unregulated free-for all’, while one of the block’s homeowners described the patrol at New Haddo as ‘completely pointless, prohibitively expensive and of no proven benefit’.

In regard to waking watches nationwide, Mr Mackenzie said that he had heard of issues with patrols ‘almost daily’, adding that ‘there is no hard empirical research that waking watch fully compensates for the cladding issues and the absence of communal fire alarms’, and describing them as a ‘last resort’ to prevent fire and rescue services ordering unsafe buildings to be evacuated, stating that fire alarms ‘would be more effective and significantly cheaper’.

Antonia Bonello, a shared owner of a flat in the development, said meanwhile that it was a ‘joke’ that residents were paying for a service ‘that may have increased the risk of fire’, though the news outlet noted that contractors have ‘recently been on site to install fire alarms’ which should mean ‘patrols are no longer needed’.

Read our article  on the different types of evacuation strategies