London Fire Brigade

Two men rescued from Thornton Heath "beds in sheds" blaze

03 October 2012

Two men were rescued from an outbuilding being used as a bedsit in Melfort Road, Thornton Heath last night.

Both men suffered burns and smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews. The whole of the single storey building was damaged by the blaze. Five mattresses were found in the outbuilding following the fire.

Watch Manager Simon Chalk, who was at the scene said:

“We acted really quickly to get the two unconscious men out of the severe fire. The outhouse was completely gutted and we made sure the fire didn’t spread further. The cause of the fire is now under investigation.”

This fire happened on the same day that the Brigade released new figures highlighting the full life threatening extent of fires in “beds in sheds” and other buildings that should not be being lived in.

The statistics show that over the last three years there have been 235 fires – almost one every five days – in buildings that appeared to have people living in them when they should not have been.  These blazes have caused four deaths and 45 serious injuries, more than one a month.

Fire Chiefs are particularly concerned at  emerging evidence which shows a growth in ad-hoc “back garden developments” which sees sheds and other unsuitable buildings, such as garages and industrial units, being rented out as accommodation.

Since 2009 there have been 16 fires, three fire deaths and seven serious fire injuries at incidents specifically involving properties fitting this description - so-called “beds in sheds.”

Now Fire Chiefs are calling on Londoners to be vigilant and to inform their local council housing team or London Fire Brigade if they see signs that disreputable landlords are trying to profit from people living in dodgy developments  that are clearly not meant to be inhabited.

Chair of  London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Strategy Committee Cllr Crada Onuegbu said:

“The issue of “beds in sheds,” as well as people living in other unsuitable buildings, continues to be a concern, as unscrupulous landlords looking to make a quick buck put lives at risk in shoddy accommodation. These figures are a stark reminder that properties like these are potentially lethal fire traps. It’s inevitable that people living in them rely on far riskier ways of heating, cooking and lighting but unfortunately fire safety is not a priority for the landlords who illegally rent  them out.

“It’s not only people living in this accommodation whose lives are being put in danger. There’s also an increased risk to our firefighters if they need to carry out life-saving rescues in buildings that are in a state of dereliction and that were never intended to be used as sleeping accommodation.”

The Brigade was called at 2230 and the fire was under control by 2358. Fire crews from Croydon, Norbury and surrounding fire stations attended the incident. The cause of the fire is under investigation.