YMCA staff’s handling of building fire ‘pretty awful’
‘No one knew where hostel evacuation points were’
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