Fire breaks out at block of flats covered in flammable cladding

London Fire Brigade at Chapel Court

Firefighters were scrambled to a fire in the bin store at Chapel Court, on Romford's Oldchurch Park estate, on Friday, November 12. - Credit: Reece Lipman

An investigation has been launched after a fire broke out at a block of flats covered in flammable cladding and the alarms allegedly didn't go off.

One occupant, leaseholder Reece Lipman, said he and others only found out the block was on fire through a WhatsApp group chat.

Swan Housing, which built and manages the block, declined to comment on why the alarms were not triggered.

Firefighters were called to Chapel Court, Crown Drive, shortly after 1pm on Friday, November 12, after smoke was spotted coming from the bin store.

The London Fire Brigade reported that a fire had also broken out in a bin shed in Maxwell Road, a few minutes' walk away,

 The London Fire Brigade said on Tuesday that it was satisfied that the bin store fire it had recorded as being in Maxwell Road was actually the Chapel Court fire in Crown Drive.

A spokesperson said the brigade was called to a second fire, outside nearby block of flats Coope Court in Union Road, minutes earlier.

Leaseholders at Chapel Court were told earlier this year that inspectors found cladding which posed “a significant risk of external fire spread”.

However, the homeowners have been banned from knowing the extent of the safety issues as Swan said sharing details could jeopardise legal actions.

“It was very scary to have this happen when there’s all this fire safety stuff going on,” said Reece.

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“Someone texted the group chat that there was smoke coming from the bin stores. We ran downstairs and I rang the fire service. When they opened the doors, you could see it burning quite badly.

Fire in bin store at Chapel Court, Havering

Firefighters opened the doors to the bin store at Chapel Court, revealing a large fire inside - but the alarms did not go off. - Credit: Reece Lipman

“We were very shaken up. Our first thought was: ‘We had no idea this was happening.'”

Even after the fire service arrived, he claimed people exiting the building did not know about the fire.

“There were fire engines, and buckets of water being thrown and massive clouds of black smoke pouring out,” he said.

“A massive thing going through our brains was: ‘What if this had happened at 3am?’ Nobody would have known. It could have been a different story.”

Fire at Chapel Court in Romford

Firefighters were called to a fire on the Oldchurch Park estate, near Queen's Hospital, Romford, on Friday. - Credit: Reece Lipman

The Met Police confirmed it had been called out on Friday but that no arrests have been made.

Swan thanked the emergency services, adding: “This matter is now under investigation by the appropriate authorities and we can therefore provide no further details at this time.”

For more, read:

Doctor lives in 'squalid' hotels after flammable flat blocked move

Cladding Crisis - Romford buyers denied access to fire safety test results

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