Families speak about Hornchurch tower block blaze escape

16:37 27 April 2012

Overstrand House, Sunrise Avenue, Hornchurch

Overstrand House, Sunrise Avenue, Hornchurch

Archant

»Families woke each other up in the early hours of the morning to escape a fire in a Hornchurch tower block which shattered glass and melted their possessions.

The blaze broke out in a children’s play area in Overstrand House, in Sunrise Avenue, on the Parkhill and Sunrise Estate, at around 4am on Wednesday.

It was later revealed that there was no smoke alarm installed in the room the fire started or in any of the communal areas in the flats.

St Andrews ward councillor John Mylod said: “I’m shocked to learn they don’t have smoke alarms. I thought all flats needed to have them. I find it hard to understand.”

Burning plastic

The bedroom of Carol Robinson’s autistic 14-year-old grandson Connor backs on to the playroom, which had been used as a storage area. Reinforced glass in the room shattered in the blaze.

The 60-year-old said: “I heard some banging and crashing. I could smell the fumes, it wasn’t like smoke from cigarettes it was thicker.”

Resident Jenny Pash, 33, said: “I heard what sounded like someone knocking on one of the doors, and I thought it was someone trying to get into one of my neighbour’s flats. I could smell burning plastic. I went to the front door and I heard a knocking sound, and then it sounded much worse. I heard the explosion when the glass came out.”

Her son Keiran, 13, said: “The smoke was just thick and black as soon as I opened the letter box.”

Becky Cox, 27, said: “My kids were absolutely petrified. They were scared, and they are now scared that it might happen again.

“It was just so thick really, we all had to run downstairs until the fire brigade got here.”

Several children’s bikes and an old TV were melted in the blaze.

Michael Davies alerted Carol Robinson, and others, to the danger.

“Let’s just be thankful we’re all still here. It was like we had a lucky charm over us,” she said.

Michael’s partner Becky said: “He’s a real diamond like that, he doesn’t just think of himself.

“If it wasn’t for him we’d all probably have just slept through it.

The building managed by the PETRA Tenant Management Organisation (TMO), but Homes in Havering has responsibility for fire safety management.

Becky said: “There’s no alarm out there, the only alarms we’ve got are in our flats.

“We need answers about how something like this was allowed to happen.”

The fire brigade are investigating the cause of the incident.

A Homes in Havering spokesman said: “Smoke alarms are not currently installed within the communal areas of the building although consideration will be given to installation in future.

“Homes in Havering along with PETRA TMO operates a ‘stay put’ policy and as such residents are advised to remain within their flats unless they are in immediate danger.

“This is in line with current guidance from the fire service.”

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