Each month, Vulcan brings you some of the latest UK fire prosecutions to remind you of the importance of adhering with fire safety regulations. And to highlight the possible dangers, and legal consequences, that can occur when these regulations are breached.
This month, we’re looking at successful prosecutions related to two cases of fire safety failings in residential properties in Leeds and London - including one case where a tenant was unable to escape a fire in an apartment building.
Two property developers and one building manager have been fined a collective £670,000 after fire safety failings were discovered at student accommodation in Leeds.
Leeds Crown Court heard that as many as 27 students had been at risk at Trinity Hall on Woodhouse Street, in a situation that Judge Robin Mairs described as having “potential for catastrophe.”
Trinity Developments Ltd, who own the building, along with Niche Homes Ltd, who were contracted to manage and let the properties, admitted to the following safety breaches:
APP Construction Ltd, who were responsible for the design and build of the property, admitted to one charge of failing to provide an adequate number of fire escape routes and exits.
Speaking on the case, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Chris Kemp said that “some of our senior officers have not seen such a blatant disregard for the law and safety of residents in 28 years.”
APP Construction Ltd were fined £450,000, Trinity Developments Ltd £160,000 and Niche Homes Ltd £60,000.
Property manager, Harper Stone Properties has been sentenced for fire safety failings related to a 2016 fire at a block of flats in Palmers Green. During the blaze, a resident was found standing on a windowsill and had to be rescued by firefighters as they were unable to escape the building.
The fire, which started in the ground floor main stairwell, spread to the third floor of the four storey property, preventing residents from leaving. There was one external staircase to the rear of the building, but not all flats had access to the escape route. When firefighters arrived, they found one third floor resident standing on the windowsill of his apartment, hanging onto the guttering attached to the roof above his window.
Upon inspection, London Fire Brigade found that Harper Stone Properties had not assessed what aspects of the premises might pose a threat to the safety of tenants, and that there were no emergency lights in the stairwell or hallways.
Apart from in one instance, entrances to the flats were not fitted with fire doors, and they did not have self-closing devices. The glass panels in the front door were also not fire resistant.
Windows next to the stairwell were not fitted with fire-resistant glass, which would help to prevent the spread of fire. And in some cases, the windows could be opened, which would allow flames to spread in case of a fire.
London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said, “This was a serious fire which could have had far worse consequences.
“Fortunately our crews were quickly on scene and were able to rescue the man who was hanging on for his life in what must have been a terrifying situation for him.
“There was a fire risk assessment carried out for this premises but those responsible for the building’s management had failed to act on its findings.
"There’s no excuse for leaving people’s safety to chance, especially when information is so readily available to those with responsibility for safety in buildings to understand what their duties are and ensure they comply with the law.”
For breaching the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Harper Stone Properties were fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in prosecution costs.
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