|SAFETY CHECKS: Firefighters in Smith's|
Wood last week.
Last month, Solihull Council’s cabinet was briefed on the steps that have been taken to safeguard local people following on from the incident in West London, in which scores of people died. In the aftermath of the fire in the early hours of June 14, West Midlands Fire Service carried out safety checks at the borough’s blocks of flats.
Within hours, messages were circulating on social media to reassure tenants that all systems were up-to-date.
Fiona Hughes, chief executive of Solihull Community Housing (SCH), insisted there was a “strong” culture of health and safety within the organisation and everything possible would be done to make sure a similar incident didn’t happen in Solihull.
Coun James Burn (Green, Chelmsley Wood) welcomed the authorities’ quick response, but said that many tenants remained anxious.
“Half of these flats are in my ward and obviously we have some very jittery residents who would like some things considered,” he told the meeting.
“One thing residents have asked a lot is when they’ll have sprinklers... it’s obviously the law for new sites, but there’s no law to retro-fit.”
Concerns have escalated following two separate fires at apartment blocks in North Solihull.
Back in January there was a “severe blaze” at Oxford Grove, Chelmsley Wood, while only last month a fire broke out on the roof of nearby Chestnut House.
Aside from the question about installing sprinklers, Coun Burn said there was also some concern about access for fire engines – noting that some of the borough’s 37 high-rise buildings were located at the end of narrow cul-de-sacs.
“There were 40 fire engines in London and there are some areas where we couldn’t get that.”
Coun Ken Meeson (Con, Dorridge & Hockley Heath) said: “With regard to sprinklers, there is an
issue about the retro-fit of sprinkler systems in older buildings.
“I’m not an expert on that at all and it’s very easy to say every building of that nature should have sprinkler systems but we mustn’t have a knee-jerk reaction. We must make sure that by putting [them in] that it doesn’t make the situation worse.”
- SCH has prepared a FAQ about fire safety to answer some of residents' most common questions. Click here for more information.