Fires erupt in London and Glasgow tower blocks one year after Grenfell
Two separate fires erupted in highrise residential blocks in London and Glasgow on the morning of commemorations to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.
About 180 people fled their homes and nearly 60 firefighters and eight fire engines were sent to tackle the first blaze, which broke out on the 12th floor of the block in Elmira Street, Lewisham, at 4.14am.
A sprinkler system, a safety feature that was not installed at Grenfell, was able to suppress the fire. London fire brigade declared the blaze under control at 6.02am.
Within two hours, emergency services in Glasgow attended a fire in a high-rise in the Gorbals area of the city. Video shows thick black smoke billowing from the 14th floor of the block on Commercial Road.
The Scottish fire and rescue service was alerted at 7.58am. A spokesman said: “Operations control mobilised a number of resources to the scene at Commercial Court, where a fire has taken hold within the kitchen of a 14th floor property.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who is also the MSP for the area, said she was receiving regular updates from the fire service and the landlord of the block, New Gorbals housing association.
The Glasgow city council leader, Susan Aitken, tweeted that five people had been rescued and the fire was quickly contained.
In Lewisham, residents complained about the lack of fire alarms. Nick Cheuk, a 27-year-old structural engineer who lives on the 19th floor with his girlfriend, said most of the residents ignored a “stay-put” policy in the block when they awoke to news of the fire.
He told the Guardian: “I had the windows open and we didn’t hear any alarms go off. A fella from the block opposite was shouting ‘fire’ and that woke me up.
“I looked outside our balcony and could see the smoke. From there we just evacuated and I knocked on all of the neighbours doors on our floor and then ran down the stairs.
“Given that a year today was Grenfell, the first thing I thought was to just get out. That was in the back of everyone’s mind. There is a stayput policy. Not everyone left, there was a fella on our floor who literally slept through the whole thing. The fire was contained in the flat, so in this case the stay-put policy worked.”
Video by Cheuk showed the orange glow of flames and black smoke spewing from a flat on the 13th floor.
Cheuk said the block was built about four years ago by Barratt Homes. He and his girlfriend were allowed back into their rented onebedroom flat at 7.30am.
“The police said the fire was completely contained and there was about 25% fire damage in the flat itself,” he said.
Christoph Mayr, a 32-year-old opera singer manager who lives on the 19th floor with his girlfriend, said: “We’d been talking about Grenfell last night. We were thinking about how irresponsibly that building had been maintained and how horrible for the people.
“And then you wake up in the middle of the night and think this must have been what it was like, waking up because people were screaming. When we opened the door you could immediately feel that the temperature was higher.”
Mayr added: “When we moved in we thought: do we really want to live on a high floor in case a fire happens? But we thought it would be OK because it’s a modern building, open in 2015, with sprinklers and alarms.
“As we were going down and there were no alarms, we were thinking what else isn’t working? I’m angry with the people who built the block and managing it.”
Mayr called for a review of fire safety in the block: “I definitely want a proper investigation of what was going on and why the alarms didn’t work. They need to revisit what tests and procedures they’ve got in place. I want to be satisfied that something is going to change.
Caleb Parker, a 40-year-old entrepreneur who lives on the 10th floor, also said questions should be asked about the lack of fire alarms. “There is consistent concern from everybody that I talked to about the lack of alarms. I’ve spoken to several neighbours and nobody heard a fire alarm,” he said.
“One guy on the 16th floor said he was woken by the smell of smoke. Every building should review fire alarms in light of last year and now this. There is needs to be questioned asked.”
He added: “Around 4.20am I was awoken by someone banging on my door, and I heard other people yelling ‘fire get out’. So I turned to my wife and said ‘get up, let’s go’.”
There were no reports of injuries and the cause of the fire was being investigated.
Crews from Lee Green, Deptford, New Cross, Forest Hill and Lewisham were among those sent to tackle the blaze, the London fire brigade said.
Pictures from the scene posted by the London ambulance service showed emergency vehicles outside the block.
The brigade’s 999 control officers took 16 calls about the fire.