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Tower Block death by fire investigated after safety concerns

(Twinnel House Block Fire, Sky News)


The tragedy happened in a seventeen-story housing block in Bristol on September 27th, when Firefighters were called to Twinnel House at roughly two in the morning. 


The blaze itself was thought to have been caused by an electric bike which was on charge in one of the flats, as stated by Steve Quinton, Avon Fire and Rescue area manager to Sky News.


The fire investigation that he carried out showed that preventative measures such as cladding outside the building managed well to contain the fire to the one apartment where it all began, as well as the Fire alarm in that apartment.


Tragically, the apartment resident appears to have fallen to his death trying to escape the fire by climbing from the window, as well as eight other people who were injured by the fire or causes of it, with one resident still being treated in hospital for burns they sustained.


A resident living in on the fourth floor near to the deceased,  Mark Barrett, told BBC, He had just gone to open a window, not hearing the fire alarms, and, “As I open the window, I heard what can only be described as ... a muffled scream and a second or two later I see a guy fly past me.”


The fire’s start was concluded to be an accidental one, caused by the fuse in the charger of an electric bike, according to investigators.


Bristol Council has confirmed that the fire alarms in the building were personal ones, in each resident’s flat, and everything in the building, such as the fire doors, “Had worked well, given the circumstances.”


Understandably, many residents of the area are now concerned about their own safety and risk of fires, whether they live in flat block apartments or houses. 


Complaints had allegedly been told to the housing association that leases apartments in the flat block, about home-made electric bikes, in the upper apartments of the building, which went unresolved, with residents repeatedly having fears about the risk of a fire.


Ahmed Sharif, a Resident who lives on the lower third floor of the multistorey block of flats with four children, told BBC, “he had been warning the caretaker for months about electrical bikes being kept on the upper floors. Homemade versions, Someone actually designed poorly (with) most of them actually having a cheaper version of Lithium-ion batteries, which could be more dangerous, but nobody has done anything about it.”


Mark Barrett said he had also “heard that a bicycle in the block had been converted to be electric…(But, again, nothing went further than complaints).”


Some ninety residents were evacuated following the tragedy of the fire, with many only returning recently, the BBC has confirmed, according to Bristol Council.


Avon Fire and Rescue officer Vaughan Jenkins said the systems were all "working as they should, (and that)  Bristol City Council has done everything it can to make those buildings across the county as safe as they possibly can be, (and) this meant that emergency services had the time needed to tackle the fire and get people out safely."


It was said that the external cladding systems also operated “as expected” (and) “did not ignite or add to the fire, which “…helped to contain the fire inside the flat and reduce the risk to others.”


However, Some residents are afraid to return as they had not heard any of the fire alarms, and no cameras or sprinkler systems are currently installed within the building.

Because of the building’s height, Firefighter’s ladders were only able to reach the ninth floor, even though the building has many storeys higher than that.


Resident Nia Gruffudd told BBC, "I'd rather sleep on my friend's floor (or) in a shed than sleep there because I'm just so paranoid about fires (now)." 


A family on the ninth floor, the Haji’s, struggled with debris in the way of escaping, and the father, Ali, said he had to “-grab his two daughters in each arm to get them out…”


"I walked through smashed glass in the hallways to escape the building, (and) I didn't hear any central alarms system at all. The police officers banged every door and broke down doors if they could to get people out."


One resident, Qamar, who is eleven, previously living on the fifteenth floor, said her family were in shock, and she was upset  “I'm just sad because I don't get to see my home, and (She was scared as she saw) “-how her father struggled to get down from their fifteenth-floor flat as he said he couldn't breathe due to his asthma.” He was "scared and shocked…I don't want to come back here because there weren't any alarms or cameras,” she added.


Avon Fire and Rescue confirmed its ladders “would only reach the ninth floor, but the Fire engine ladders in London reach twenty storeys.” for appropriate rescues in higher buildings.


Simon Shilton, the service's chief fire officer, said, “the service's turntable ladders had a lifespan of about seventeen years (but) when it's time for us to replace our turntable ladders, of course, we'll take that option to consider what's available on the market at that time."


However, Fire expert Arnold Tarling did admit that “the lack of sprinklers in the building was a concern, (and that) what really is required is retrofitting of sprinkler systems to all high rise properties."


Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said, “Those housed in emergency accommodation would remain there until we've properly done the work to make sure their flats are properly habitable.”


“When the report was published, (I) “-wanted to take it to people in the affected block of flats as well as neighbouring flats to ensure open communication and transparency.”


"We are very aware that people going back into their flats will be feeling a sense of vulnerability no matter what we tell them, so transparency is really key.”


"As an authority we have been incredibly proactive on fire, since Grenfell in particular. We had all of our blocks looked at."


This is particularly worrying, given the Grenfell tower fire tragedy that happened on the 14th of June 2017, where a similar electrical fire broke out due to faulty wiring in a fridge, which then spread throughout the twenty-four-storey tower block and injured seventy people, with twenty of those injuries being life-changing. 


Mainly the question everyone involved with the Bristol tower block fire seems to be, “Are these high-rise tower blocks safe for living in?”


 And for the rest of us, why does tragedy have to happen for these residents' concerns to be taken seriously and listened to? Haven’t people living in these buildings gone through enough, with these similar safety concerns and fires claiming lives?


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