Self-stor­age unit fire vic­tims plan le­gal ac­tion over ‘safety fail­ures’

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By He­len Chan­dler-Wilde

HUN­DREDS of peo­ple are plan­ning a le­gal chal­lenge against a self-stor­age com­pany, claim­ing safety fail­ures led to the de­struc­tion of the pos­ses­sions of more than 1,000 cus­tomers.

A fire on New Year’s Eve razed a Shur­gard self-stor­age in Croy­don, south London, wip­ing out 1,198 stor­age con­tain­ers, with hun­dreds los­ing ir­re­place­able per­sonal me­men­tos.

Cus­tomers claimed London Fire Bri­gade was alerted by phone calls in­stead of au­to­matic fire alarms. If true, this means the fire could have been left to grow for a longer time be­fore it was dis­cov­ered, mak­ing it harder to put out.

The fire was tack­led by more than 100 fire­fight­ers and took al­most 24 hours to ex­tin­guish. Ques­tions are be­ing asked about why the build­ing was al­legedly fit­ted with fire ex­tin­guish­ers in­stead of sprin­klers.

“Sprin­klers could have sup­pressed and con­trolled a fire un­til the first re­sponse team ar­rived,” said Rachel Gould, who lost the en­tire con­tents of her two-bed­room house.

“Fire ex­tin­guish­ers are only use­ful if some­one op­er­ates them and, as far as has been re­ported, there were no Shur­gard staff on site to op­er­ate those.”

Cus­tomers feared the build­ing de­sign could have threat­ened the safety of any­one in­side. “We couldn’t find the stairs to get down. They were not sign­posted, which means the fire es­capes weren’t ei­ther. There were no signs to tell me how to get out,” said Carol Addy. “Some­body could have been in there when the fire started.”

She also ques­tioned the lack of se­cu­rity out­side nor­mal busi­ness hours.

There are also com­plaints about the terms and con­di­tions of con­tracts, which state items of sen­ti­men­tal value should not be stored, de­spite Shur­gard pro­mot­ing this in its ad­ver­tis­ing.

Steve Reed, the Labour MP for Croy­don North, said: “I would, of course, sup­port a le­gal chal­lenge given the con­cerns about the lack of fire safety and the con­cerns about whether the prod­uct be­ing sold was what they were told it was.”

Narise Joyram, 20, will join the le­gal chal­lenge after the fire de­stroyed the last pos­ses­sions of her par­ents, who died when she was a teenager.

“I had pho­tos, my mum’s wed­ding dress, all the pho­tos from the 36 coun­tries my par­ents vis­ited to­gether be­fore I was born. My grand­mother is ab­so­lutely de­stroyed – she has noth­ing to re­mem­ber her daugh­ter by now.”

Shur­gard de­clined to com­ment on this story, but re-sent a state­ment from a week ago that said: “In com­mon with all Shur­gard prop­er­ties in the UK, the store was fully com­pli­ant with all national build­ing and fire reg­u­la­tions.

“We know that this is a dev­as­tat­ing event for all our cus­tomers. We re­main com­mit­ted to up­dat­ing them, and pro­vid­ing sup­port, for as long as nec­es­sary.”

Fire­fight­ers were still dous­ing the Shur­gard fire in Croy­don on New Year’s Day

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