Fire fear at flats

RESIDENTS living in housing association flats in Ipswich fear a spate of nearby woodland fires could put their lives at risk.

RESIDENTS living in housing association flats in Ipswich fear a spate of nearby woodland fires could put their lives at risk.

David Milam, who lives with his children at Newnham Court, off Cambridge Drive, said there had been four fires in the last two weeks on woodland near his home.

The 45-year-old said: “Kids are setting light to dry leaves close to trees which are close to the flats. It is a waste of the fire brigade's time when they could be out saving lives rather than putting out small fires. These flats are like tinderboxes and there are no fire escapes. We have spoken to Orwell Housing and were told the flats are all above board.”

Mr Milam, who has three children, aged 11, 15 and 16, said if the woodland was cleared there would be no leaves to burn and the land could be used to build a children's play area.

“It is just children playing around because they have nothing better to do, but we fear for our children's safety,” he added.

He said another problem with the flats was damp, which he believed could be due to the close proximity of the woodland.

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“We don't have cavity wall insulation and the storage heaters are expensive to run. Orwell said it is damp because of condensation, but I always have the windows open.”

He said his 16-year-old daughter got a mild electric shock when she plugged in her stereo, due to the moisture in the flat.

Wendy Evans-Hendrick, director of development and property for Orwell Housing Association, said although the outside of the flats looked like white timber boards, it was in fact metal cladding, and wall insulation was currently being considered.

She said the 1970s built flats' fire exits, down the central staircases, were made of concrete and were not likely sites for fires.

Mrs Evans-Hendrick added that some of the woodland in that area did belong to the association, and the development of 36 homes had already begun and should be completed by April next year, clearing and landscaping the woodland.

She said there was a children's play area in nearby St Catherine's Court which had been developed between the association and Ipswich Borough Council.

Gary Phillips, Suffolk's assistant chief fire officer, said: “Heath fires are dangerous to residents and nearby homes and wildlife and are a sad fact of summer. Litter and abandoned bottles are not only unsightly but could also trigger a blaze this time of year and despite it having rained a little recently people still need to be vigilant as the ground remains very dry.”

Anyone suspecting that a fire has been started deliberately on heath or woodland should telephone Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.