Call for urgent review as residents fear ‘Grenfell-like’ blaze

SDLP Representative Thomas Larkham at Drumgor Flats in Craigavon
SDLP Representative Thomas Larkham at Drumgor Flats in Craigavon

Residents of a Craigavon tower block fear a Grenfell-like fire and claim the NI Housing Executive is not taking their concerns seriously.

One resident Sean McGuigan says there is only one entry/exit and if this was blocked they would not be able to get out of the building.

He said there are no fire alarms in communal areas and the emergency release button on the door has been broken. “The wires have been ripped out. If that door was to fail there is no emergency back up to open it.”

He is calling for a sprinkler system in the flats and immediate repairs to be carried out.

The 24-year-old also revealed there are only seven blue bins and two green bins for the entire eight flats which are all occupied. “We don’t feel safe in these flats,” he said, adding there were a number of families with young children.

SDLP Craigavon representative Thomas Larkham called on the NIHE to urgently carry out a fire risk assessment.

“When I visited the flats I was shocked to learn that there was no fire escape for residents should they need to evacuate the building in an emergency- only the front door. Given the disaster in Grenfell tower, London I would have thought as a priority NIHE would have carried out immediate risk assessments on all their flats- I was gobsmacked to hear from residents that there have been no assessments carried out on the flats in Drumgor”.

“Residents also expressed their frustration at NIHE for not carrying out maintenance.”

A Housing Executive spokesperson said it takes health and safety of tenants ‘very seriously’ and has installed a range of fire safety measures at the flats. “These include accredited fire resisting door-sets, egress windows and smoke alarms in every flat as well as a Communal Hallway Door Access Control/Entry System in communal areas.

“We also carry out regular maintenance work, including fire safety measures such as replacing smoke alarms every 10 years and cleaning communal areas, to the flats to ensure that they continue to meet modern housing standards.

“Drumgor Heights is 4 storeys high and is classified as a Medium Rise Purpose built block of flats and maisonettes. Current legislation, under NI Fire Safety Regulation 2010, does not require statutory fire risk assessments of Medium Rise Purpose built blocks of flats and maisonettes.

“In 2014/2015 we spent over £250,000 upgrading the kitchens and heating systems of the flats and we will be commencing works such as painting and upgrading communal areas, as part of our external maintenance programme, at a cost of £33,000 later this year.”