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Fire safety checks at 18 residential tower blocks in Suffolk after Grenfell Tower blaze

PUBLISHED: 17:28 20 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:35 20 June 2017

St Francis Court, a 15-floor block of flats in Franciscan Way, Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTT

St Francis Court, a 15-floor block of flats in Franciscan Way, Ipswich. Picture: MATT STOTT

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St Francis Court, Suffolk's highest occupied block of flats based in Ipswich town centre, was one of the first buildings to be inspected today as the Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service seeks to reassure high-rise flat residents.

There are 18 residential tower blocks with at least eight floors in Suffolk. All are receiving basic risk assessments, involving checks over fire lifts, cladding material, and layouts. Safety leaflets are also being issued.

Paul Goodman, group commander for prevention and protection at the fire service, said: “Nobody in the fire safety world had ever seen anything like (Grenfell) in this country and it was not something we expected to happen. Like other fire services, we are checking our high rise stock. We have got building control with us and they will be looking at anything that has come through building control: any refurbishment, in particular any areas that have been cladded, and they will be reporting back and getting it tested if it’s the same sort of materials.”

There has been speculation that cladding applied to the outside of the Grenfell Tower building during an £8.6 million renovation project finished in May 2016 may have played a role in the spread of the tragic fire which claimed the lives of 79 people on June 14.

Fire safety experts have been checking St Francis Court. Picture: MATT STOTTFire safety experts have been checking St Francis Court. Picture: MATT STOTT

This newspaper joined the fire service as they inspected 16-storey St Francis Court, built in 1962 and extensively refurbished 12 years ago. It has 32 flats and firefighters have special training to tackle fires there. There were six fires between 1995 and 2001.

Dave Green, national officer at the Fire Brigades Union, said 1970s buildings like Grenfell Tower were designed so that each flat was a box which contained fire within itself, with a non-flammable concrete exterior.

Mr Goodman said: “We are getting a few questions, but people predominantly feel safe. The stay-put message is still there. If you have a fire in your flat, raise the alarm, get everybody out and leave the premises. If there is a fire elsewhere and there is a stay-put policy, then you are asked to stay put until the emergency services tell you to move or unless it is unsafe to do so. If you wanted to evacuate, then you could.”

He added the fire service will “react accordingly” to the Grenfell Tower fire investigation report.

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