Editor, IFSEC Global

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James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
March 8, 2022

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Tall buildings

Major fire at block of flats and offices in Whitechapel

On the afternoon of 7th March, London Fire Brigade confirmed reports of a major fire at the Crawford Building, a block of flats and offices on Whitechapel High Street, near Aldgate in East London. 25 fire engines and around 125 firefighters were called to the scene, with a 64m ladder being mobilised to the incident. 

Fire-Whitechapel-March22

Image from LFB Twitter

Firefighters tackled a fire in a flat on the 17th floor of the building, which also affected balconies on the 17th, 18th and 19th floors.

Journalists and people at the scene reported that external parts of the building were seen falling to the street and videos show heavy smoke clouds coming from the fire.

The building houses a mixture of commercial offices and flats and is 22 storeys in total. Three commercial units underneath the railway arches were also said to have been alight, as well as four cars and a telephone box.

According to Station Commander Chris Jenner, around 60 people were evacuated from the building with others remaining in their unaffected flats. He added: “A woman was trapped by the nature of the fire on the 17th floor. She was given fire survival advice by control officers until firefighters located her. Fire crews used a fire escape hood to help lead the woman to safety via the internal staircase.”

The ladder that was used at the incident is the UK’s tallest aerial ladder in operation, and was introduced as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire, where the Brigade announced plans to upgrade its existing fleet following the events of June 2017. Equivalent to the highest ladder in service in Europe, firefighters were able to tackle the blaze to get water onto the building from the outside.

A leaseholder in the building spoke to IFSEC Global, saying: “As residents we’ve been concerned over fire safety issues for some time. All the balconies have timber on them that are flammable, but we’ve been in dispute with our housing association [Network Homes] over who should cover the costs of fixing the issue.”

There are also concerns over the active fire protection measures within the building. It was added that while they [the leaseholder] weren’t in the building themselves at the time, their neighbours had said that no fire alarm had been sounded and that residents were knocking on each other’s doors to encourage evacuation. There are said to be no sprinklers fitted in the building.

The residential properties in the building are said to be split into luxury housing and affordable housing. According to the leaseholder we spoke to, while the fire was on the luxury housing side and they have been offered temporary accommodation, no such offer was made for those residents on the other side.

IFSEC Global contacted one of the housing associations responsible for some of the properties within the building, Network Homes, for comment. Helen Edwards, Chief Executive for Network Homes, provided the following statement:

“We are thankful that everyone is safe following the fire on the 17th floor of the Crawford Building in Whitechapel, on Monday.

“The fire that took place yesterday did not affect any of our residents’ flats directly although three have had some water damage to their homes. All other residents were able to return to their homes last night. Our team were onsite during the incident and into Monday evening, and have been onsite today meeting residents to offer further support. We are also writing to all residents with an update today and will continue to offer support where needed.

“Network Homes is not the freeholder of this building. We are the head lessee of 70 flats across floors 7-11 which are a mix of tenanted, shared ownership and leasehold homes. Responsibility for the building and balconies is with the freeholder. The building has a stay put policy and like all other residential buildings with a stay put policy, under current fire regulations it does not have a fire alarm.

“We have been and remain in active discussion with the freeholder’s managing agents about fire safety measures including removal and replacement of timber balcony decking.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

 

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