London Fire Brigade

Car wash blaze exposes “beds in sheds deathtrap”

22 March 2013

London Fire Brigade today highlighted another “beds in sheds deathtrap”, after a serious fire broke out at a garage and car wash in Edgware this week.

The Brigade said that six people, including two young children, were ‘lucky to escape with their lives’ after the blaze broke out on Wednesday night in the car wash immediately below their unsafe living accommodation.

Along with four fire engines and over 20 firefighters, specialist fire safety officers were called to the scene. They found virtually no fire safety features inside the accommodation and officers deemed the living conditions so dangerous they issued a ‘prohibition notice’ to prevent the building being used for sleeping. 

The Brigade said it is now set to take enforcement action against those responsible for the carwash and living quarters constructed above.

London Fire Brigade’s Deputy Commissioner, Rita Dexter, said:

“The accommodation was a potential deathtrap and the people living there were lucky not to have been killed by the fire. Had it broken out later when they were asleep we may well have been faced with several fatalities.

“There were barely any safety measures in place and it’s just sheer fortune that one of the residents noticed smoke coming through the floor and called 999.

“It’s tragic that people are being forced to live in such dangerous conditions by landlords who choose to ignore fire safety laws. If we find that people are putting lives at risk by blatantly ignoring them we will have no hesitation in prosecuting.”

As well as several cars being parked below the sleeping accommodation, there were no smoke alarms, the only escape route was blocked,  and there was no ‘fire resisting separation’ between the garage and the escape route from the accommodation, meaning the fire could easily have spread, trapping the residents upstairs.

In recent years, the Brigade has seen evidence of a growth in ad-hoc “beds in sheds” and calls this phenomenon the capital’s “hidden housing.” In November 2011, fire safety inspectors in Brent swooped to close a number of commercial buildings being used as living accommodation by around 150 people after uncovering some of the worst  fire safety risks they had ever seen.

ENDS

Notes to editors

About the fire

Fire crews tackled the blaze in a car wash on Park Way in Burnt Oak, Edgware on Wednesday 20 March. The fire destroyed two cars and damaged another, before spreading to the rest of the garage and up into the ceiling above.

Six people escaped from the flats above the car wash and fire crews evacuated seven other people from adjacent flats. The flats above the car wash were smoke damaged, but fortunately no one was injured.

Four fire engines went to the scene from Stanmore, Mill Hill, Hendon, and Harrow fire stations. The Brigade was called at 2156 and the fire was under control at 2255.

It is thought the fire started in the engine of a car that had been left in the garage overnight.