A riverside flat block by Leeds railway station suffered a dramatic exterior fire this week (Tuesday 8 June 2021), raising concerns once again about dangerous cladding and related building defects – but West Yorkshire Fire Service were on this occasion able to contain the fire, and all residents escaped safely.
The block – called Blue, at Granary Wharf – is one of dozens locally affected by the Cladding Scandal. Following the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy, it came to light that thousands of flat blocks UK-wide had been built with dangerously flammable external cladding, and other building defects such as the absence of adequate ‘fire breaks’. A lengthy legal and political battle has ensued, regarding responsibility; and as it stands, the regular leaseholders are in most cases being forced to pay crippling bills, both for interim modifications, and for the long-term rebuilding work. For more details, read our latest previous coverage here.
This week’s fire started on an eighth storey balcony, and spread into the flat – but residents from the flat in question, and from about 60 other flats, evacuated the building safely. The Fire Service were able to tackle the fire both inside and outside the building, and ensured that it did not spread. Most residents were able to return to their homes immediately after the fire.
In a statement, the Fire Service noted that the Blue building features some non-compliant cladding, but that this didn’t feature in the fire. They also commented that procedures and modifications (including an early-warning fire alarm system) have been put in place in the light of the cladding crisis – and these played a part in enabling a fast evacuation and response.
Rachael, a local resident, and cladding victim and campaigner, commented:
“Blue is one of the many buildings that’s been found to be missing the fire breaks behind the cladding: a really core element to safe design. This means that there’s only a very short window to get fires like this under control, without them spreading between floors behind the cladding. Thankfully the Fire Service were able to respond quickly enough this time – but it is a deeply worrying situation for people living in high rise buildings with these defects.”
Hilary Benn MP added on social media: “This reminds us all of the danger that leaseholders in blocks with unsafe cladding and missing firebreaks live with every single day.”
For more info, check out the Leeds Cladding Scandal campaign here, and the national End Our Cladding Scandal campaign here. Campaigners are inviting all those caught up in these, and all concerned supporters, to join this protest in central London on 15 July: click here.