Calls for greater fire safety in bedsits

A MOTHER whose son was killed in a horrific fire in Felixstowe today backed calls for life-saving sprinkler systems and national safety standards for bedsits.

A MOTHER whose son was killed in a horrific fire in Felixstowe today backed calls for life-saving sprinkler systems and national safety standards for bedsits.

Maggie Giles' son Rob, 18, and his friend Will Stokes, 19, died when a candle or a faulty TV set caused a blaze at their top floor room in Holland Road.

They died when smoke engulfed the room in the house – converted into bedsits without planning permission.

The government has announced it is to improve the conditions of bedsits and flats, but the Local Government Association (LGA) says the new licensing system will not go far enough to protect the 120,000 vulnerable households.

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It will be pressing the government to go further and introduce national fire safety standards for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) – making it compulsory to have sprinkler systems and other measures.

This is in line with the Evening Star's campaign to improve safety in bedsits, used by many young single people and students.

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Mrs Giles said: "I found the statistics relating to fire deaths and injuries in multiple occupancy housing quite startling, and would welcome any legislation which would protect the safety of tenants in such accommodation.

"I feel that young people like Rob are especially vulnerable – their economic situation forces them to seek inexpensive accommodation and it is important that their safety is not compromised as a consequence.

"I hope that local government grants will be made available to help landlords make the required fire safety provisions."

Mrs Giles did not blame the owners of the Holland Road house for the fire in which the teenagers died and said there was no negligence or lack of care. She felt the accident must be a terrible thing for the owners to live with.

The LGA said 35pc of all fire deaths and 39pc of all fire injuries occurred in HMOs.

In Suffolk, local councils and Suffolk Fire and Rescue service are working together to promote the effectiveness of residential sprinkler systems, particularly to private sector landlords and property developers.

In Ipswich, all new private sector flat conversions will have to be fitted with sprinkler systems, and grant money is available to help landlords fit them.

Assistant Divisional Officer Ali Moseley from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said: "It is a fact that most fire deaths and injuries occur in people's homes, especially where the building has been converted into flats, so we are concentrating our efforts here to reduce these tragic events.

"There is no doubt that residential sprinklers are an effective life-saving tool and we are keen to talk to builders and landlords to promote the installation of these systems in higher risk and more remote housing."

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