Melton flats blaze prompts new council fire safety drive

Firefighters in Rutland Street in Melton in May 2018 tackling a blaze in a communal area of council-owned flats EMN-190502-124712001
Firefighters in Rutland Street in Melton in May 2018 tackling a blaze in a communal area of council-owned flats EMN-190502-124712001
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A fire in a town centre block of flats last year and the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze of 2017 has prompted Melton Council to tighten up safety policies for residents living in its properties.

Police evacuated tenants in Rutland Street back in May when fire broke out after a discarded cigarette came into contact with a sofa being stored outside between two apartments.

Melton firefighters said they would be urging the council to ensure communal drying areas were not used to store furniture and rubbish to reduce the risk of blazes being ignited.

The council say it was this incident plus a general drive by local authorities in the UK to improve fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell disaster, which claimed 72 lives, which influenced its Corporate Committee to agree to provide extra resources to manage the issue and adopt a more robust Fire Safety Management Policy.

Two newly-appointed housing officers will make regular safety inspections of council properties and a new compliance officer role will be created to manage safety in all homes owned by the authority.

The council has also commissioned more detailed fire risk assessments from Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service of three of its blocks of apartments, in Chapel Street and New Street and at Mapperley House.

As a result, action plans have been developed and improvement works for these properties are well underway and are anticipated to be completed by early April.

Councillor Joe Orson, leader of the council said: “This Rutland Street incident has been a real catalyst in sharpening the council’s focus on fire safety management.

“The new leadership takes the fire safety risk very seriously, especially in our supported and sheltered housing schemes with our most vulnerable tenants. “We have already invested additional resources in 2018 and the approval of the Fire Safety Management Policy and the establishment of further officer resources is another key step forward in demonstrating the council’s commitment towards this issue.”

A new Fire Safety Management Working Group has been set up, consisting of council tenants, borough councillors and council officers.

John Skerritt, chair of the Tenants Forum Executive Committee (TFEC) said: “On behalf of tenants I welcome the improved focus on fire safety and acknowledge the hard work the council has carried out since the Rutland Street Fire last May.

“This group will oversee implementation of fire safety and mobility scooter policies as well as ensuring good engagement and communication with tenants who are going to be affected.”

Carol Graap, a town centre member of TFEC said: “I welcome the council’s work on fire safety and look forward to working with them to resolve the needs of residents, particularly those with mobility issues, making sure there is good communication and engagement with the residents affected.”

The new policy, say the council, includes a range of improvements which have been put in place, with more underway, to ensure residents, tenants, staff and visitors to all council-owned properties remain informed and protected against the risk of fire.