YMCA staff’s han­dling of build­ing fire ‘pretty aw­ful’

‘No one knew where hos­tel evac­u­a­tion points were’

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Kather­ine Clemen­tine kather­ine.clemen­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

STAFF at a YMCA hos­tel in Hayes have been crit­i­cised by res­i­dents af­ter a blaze broke out in the build­ing.

Around 150 peo­ple fled the hos­tel in Sta­tion Road on the morn­ing of Tues­day, De­cem­ber 1 as 35 fire­fight­ers tack­led flames that had taken hold of a fourth floor flat.

But staff have come in for crit­i­cism from res­i­dents for al­legedly fail­ing to re­act and ap­pear­ing not to know where the evac­u­a­tion point was.

Kim­ber­ley Wid­dows, who lives on the fourth floor of the build­ing, said: “An alarm was go­ing on and off and none of us thought it was a real fire.

“It wasn’t un­til my neigh­bour, whose flat was on fire, ran to the first floor and got all the chil­dren out that we knew.”

Ms Wid­dows said her neigh­bour, 22-year-old Craig Mur­phy, told the staff his room was on fire but claims they just ‘shrugged their shoul­ders and didn’t know what to do’.

She added: “My neigh­bour ran from the first floor all the way up to the ninth floor. My floor alone has got five peo­ple and then op­po­site me is an­other eight peo­ple, so you can imag­ine how many rooms he had to knock on.

“He evac­u­ated the build­ing and then was in the am­bu­lance as he’d in­haled so much smoke.”

Ms Wid­dows. who suf­fers from joint hy­per mo­bil­ity syn­drome, strug­gled to get out­side due to be­ing on crutches.

She said the YMCA’s han­dling of the fire was ‘pretty aw­ful’ and added: “Once I’d hopped down five flights of stairs to the bot­tom floor, the staff just looked at me and none of them asked if I was okay or if any of the chil­dren were all right.

“When the fire­men came they said ‘you all need to get out of the build­ing, why are you still in here?’

“None of the staff knew where the evac­u­a­tion point was and where we were stand­ing there was glass fall­ing from the build­ing.”

Mr Mur­phy, who lost all his pos­ses­sions and is now in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, said: “They should have evac­u­ated ev­ery­one, whether it’s a small fire or not. If you don’t put it out right, it’ll get worse.”

But YMCA’s west Lon­don chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Clare Scot­tBooth, told the Gazette she was ‘very happy’ with the way the fire pro­ce­dure had been fol­lowed, and called it a ‘smooth evac­u­a­tion’.

She said: “The only is­sue we had is, be­cause peo­ple have in­di­vid­ual flats, ob­vi­ously the flat where the fire is should be evac­u­ated im­me­di­ately, but the other flats should wait for the fire bri­gade’s ad­vice. This is be­cause, if peo­ple start open­ing and shut­ting doors, the fire could spread faster. So we waited for the fire bri­gade to ar­rive.

“Some peo­ple I know came down early, not un­der­stand­ing what the ac­tual fire evac­u­a­tion pro­ce­dure is.”

BLAZE: A flat in the YMCA hos­tel in Hayes catches fire

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