London Fire Brigade is calling for a spotlight to be shone on the growing problem of the capital’s fire trap “hidden housing.”
The Brigade says there is emerging evidence of a growth in ad-hoc “back garden developments” which see sheds and other unsuitable buildings being used as accommodation. In the last three months alone the Brigade has issued eight prohibition notices on properties of this type, preventing them being used as housing.
Fearing an increase in fire deaths if the problem is not addressed urgently, the Brigade has now asked the Mayor to look at ways of responding to it, as part of his revised housing strategy.
Rita Dexter, Deputy Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, said:
“Beds in sheds, garages being used as housing, industrial units being used as sleeping accommodation – these are all potentially lethal fire traps. It’s inevitable that people living in these shoddy developments rely on far riskier ways of heating, cooking and lighting their home. They are also being exploited by unscrupulous landlords who are happy to take their money without any regard for their safety.
“The nature of the accommodation means that this is largely a hidden problem in our city and we would like the Mayor to look at ways of helping us get to grips with the extent of it before more people lose their lives or are injured in fires.”
In March last year a man died following a fire in a garage which was been used as self contained living accommodation. In November 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.
The Brigade was alerted to the problem following a fire in an office block where firefighters rescued six people. A subsequent inspection of the building revealed a seventeen rooms with over 50 people living in them. Fire safety officers found virtually no fire safety features inside and believe a more fire serious fire could easily have ripped through the entire building and residents would have struggled to escape.