Last month, a resident with mental health problems attempted to burn down his flat in Whitebeam Court in Pendleton. The subsequent blaze was attended by eight fire engines, the escape route was filled with smoke and six people needed medical assistance.
The June newsletter from the Whitebeam Community Association to tenants was scathing...
"Thankfully nobody was hurt" it stated "...Questions must be asked and again be assured that these questions are being asked. One question would be that, if the fire had spread (which the Fire Brigade must have thought a possibility at some point, or 8 fire engines would not have been sent), why was our only escape route filled with blinding and choking smoke, 6 of our people required medical assistance?
"When the smoke and gasses reached the top floor the Fire Brigade had no way of venting it off and had to ask a tenant to open his front door and all windows, then all the smoke from the fire, trapped inside the escape route was vented through his flat?" it added "Not much point in having a smoke door?"
Apparently the refurbishment, which included similar cladding to Grenfell Tower in London - scene of this morning's horrendous fire - was signed off by Salford City Council... "All the problems we predicted came true" a Whitebeam resident told the Salford Star.
In London, the Grenfell Action Group alerted residents to fire and safety hazards. In 2013 a newsletter stated that "there has indeed been significant negligence, which has been ongoing for a considerable length of time..."
The newsletter ended: "There is something seriously wrong with a bureaucracy that is incapable of reacting to serious negligence, affecting fire safety in a densely occupied tower block, with any sense of urgency...Does anyone actually give a damn?" (see here)
In 2013 the Salford Star also ran an article about potential fire risks in blocks which were then managed by Salix Homes, with residents saying that the housing company had 'ignored warnings of "substantial" fire risks from its own surveys for at least five years' (see here).
Since then, these, and most of the blocks in Salford, have been refurbished by Salix, Pendleton Together and City West Housing – with new cladding similar to that used in Grenfell Tower, although there has been no official statement yet by London authorities on the cause of the fire and its rapid engulfment of the block.
A resident who lives in a Salford high rise block and wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Salford Star this morning...
"This is horrifying" he said "I'm really scared now. The block where I live is just like the one in London - recently refurbished with new external insulating cladding. Was that to blame? Is it flammable? How else did the whole building go up like a torch so quickly?
"We need external inspectors independent of Salix Homes, Pendleton Together and City West to conduct an immediate safety review of all Salford tower blocks" he added.
This morning, Salix Homes moved to reassure tenants...
"Our thoughts are with the victims and everyone affected by the tragic fire at the tower block in West London this morning" the company stated "We would like to reassure all our tenants living in our high rise buildings across Salford that all our tower blocks meet strict Fire Safety Regulations and we carry out regular inspections and risk assessments, alongside fire safety assessors, to ensure the safety of our customers.
"Several of our tower blocks have recently undergone multi-million pound improvements and this includes the enhancement of fire safety measures and we also provide and fit smoke detectors in all our properties" it added
"The safety of our customers is our utmost priority and we are confident that the safety procedures we have in place will keep our customers safe" it explained "However, following the tragic incident in London, we will now be working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and Greater Manchester Housing Providers to look at any lessons that can be learnt."*
Meanwhile, City West Housing was already in the middle of a Fire Safety Week this morning, with a fire safety community officer scheduled to meet tenants today at Old Lane Resource Centre between 1pm - 3pm (see here).
However, Pendleton Together has so far published nothing for its residents. Nor did the company respond to a Salford Star request for it to reassure its tenants.
*Salix Homes added to its statement: "We recently issued a new Home Safety Guide offering advice and guidance for customers in the event of a fire. If you would like a copy of the booklet, or require your smoke alarms to be tested or fitted, please contact us on 0800 218 2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org "
For general advice on fire safety in the home, you can also contact Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service on 0800 555 815.
Update: 7pm: Pendleton Together has finally issued a statement...
"We work in partnership with our colleagues in the local fire services and with professional fire risk assessors to make sure our procedures reflect best practice and are kept up-to-date.
"We would like to reassure all our tenants and nearby residents that we are confident that everything possible is done to ensure they are protected and kept safe. We are, however, as a precaution, double checking all of our procedures today and, over the coming weeks, will be re-issuing our fire safety advice to tenants. We would ask that, in the meantime, they take note of the procedures in their accommodation and contact us immediately if they are concerned or want that advice to be re-issued.
"In the coming months we expect there will be much reflection on the cause and response to the fire in London. We will be paying close attention to that and reacting to any lessons learned to modify our procedures if required and will advise tenants if we do this."
**Update: 15th June - Salford Tower Block Cladding 'Contributes To Fire Growth' state experts - click here