A blaze at an apartment block in Leeds city centre last night saw terrified residents evacuated from a building, which is affected by the cladding and fire safety scandal and on the "combustible and at risk list".
Firefghters were swift to the scene and managed to extinguish the blaze at the 16-storey Blue apartment block on Little Neville Street, near Granary Wharf. It started on a timber balcony. Since the Grenfell fire tragedy put the spotlight on fire safety issues in apartment buildings, the wood balconies are classed as "flammable" and the building has a section of combustible ACM cladding.
A resident in a neighbouring apartment that was affected by the smoke and from water used to quell the blaze said: "My apartment almost burnt down with me in it. Another resident told me she only knew there was a fire because someone in the opposite building started screaming and pointing and that's when she set the alarm off."
She added: "I'm just a normal working person and the cladding scandal could see me bankrupt and homeless or burnt alive."
Abi Tubis, a spokesperson for the campaign group Leeds Cladding Scandal, says: "This is another example on why the government needs to move quickly on the remediation and fix all these buildings."
Abi, who lives the St George building in Leeds, which is also at risk due to flammable cladding, inadequate fire breaks, timber balconies and other fire safety issues, adds: "Firefighters moved really quckly at Blue last night and did a great job but, along with most other buildings affected by this scandal, there are many other fire safety defects there.
"There was a balcony fire in an affected block in London last month so this is not an isolated incident. I hope the government sees this latest ncident as an eye opener and that they speed things up and agree to fund all the fire safety defects that exist in these apartment blocks. This is not just about cladding."
While the government has agreed to fund the removal and replacement of flammable cladding on some but not all apartment blocks, it is not funding reparation of many other fire safety issues, such as wood balconies and a lack of fire breaks. Campaigners want to see a levy on developers to help fund reparation of all safety issues in all affected apartment blocks.
West Yorkshire Fire Service issued a statement which says: "Eight fire engines from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service attended a fire involving a balcony and
flat at a high-rise building in Little Neville Street, Leeds at 20.18pm on June 8, 2021. All occupants of the flat involved in the fire safely self-evacuated without injury.
"The fire started on the balcony and spread into the flat which was badly damaged as a result. Firefighters quickly tackled and contained the fire which did not spread beyond the flat. Firefighters used an aerial appliance to externally tackle the fire as well as firefighters tackling the fire internally.
"Specialist fans were used to clear the smoke. Properties below the fire also suffered some water damage as a result. The occupants of approximately 60 flats within the building evacuated safely. Most occupants of the building were able to return to their homes after the fire, except those directly affected.
"The response to the fire was multi-agency involving Police, Ambulance, Leeds City Council and Yorkshire Water. The Fire Service left the scene at approximately 1am (June 9, 2021). A Fire Investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing."
Watson, managing agents for the Blue apartment block, say: "As the incident is under investigation we don’t wish to speculate on how the fire started. We are working closely with West Yorkshire Fire Service to assist with their investigations. What we can confirm is the fire was contained to a single apartment and all residents evacuated the building safely. We would like to thank the West Yorkshire Fire Service for arriving so quickly, for their professionalism in dealing with the evacuating residents and for extinguishing the fire. The building was safe for residents to return to their properties just before midnight."