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High-rise flats in Ipswich subject to strict rules by Suffolk Fire and Rescue

PUBLISHED: 14:39 14 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:05 14 June 2017

Smoke billows from the fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PA WIRE

Smoke billows from the fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PA WIRE

Suffolk's fire chief has tried to reassure residents of high-rise flats in the county after the tragic blaze that swept through a huge tower block in west London which may cost many lives.

St Francis Court in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER
St Francis Court in Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham was speaking after fire swept through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in north Kensington in West London.

Dozens of people are feared missing after the blaze during the early hours of Wednesday morning. It had recently been refurbished.

The highest occupied block in the county is St Francis Court in Ipswich. It was built in 1962 and was extensively refurbished 12 years ago.

It has 16 storeys with 32 flats and firefighters in the town have special training in how to tackle any incident there.

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham. Picture: GREGG BROWNSuffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The only major fire there was in 2002, before it was refurbished, when a resident had to be rescued by firefighters. A total of 12 crews were called, and they managed to confine the fire to a small area and there were no injuries.

Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham said: “Like everyone, we have been shocked and saddened by the terrible events of the fire in London overnight.

“Our thoughts go out to all those who have lost their lives and to those who have been affected by this horrific event.

“Our thoughts are also with those firefighters and emergency responders dealing with bringing the fire under control under very difficult and dangerous conditions.

Cumberland Towers in Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSONCumberland Towers in Ipswich. Picture: SU ANDERSON

“Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service has stringent procedures in place to prevent and fight these types of fires, which are practiced and reviewed on a regular basis.

“High rise buildings are subject to regular fire safety inspections, to ensure they meet with regulations for public safety and advice, covering fire prevention and protection is given to owners and occupiers.”

Ipswich has several high-rise flats. The tallest block, The Mill on the Waterfront, has never been completed and occupied. The only Suffolk high-rise block outside Ipswich is St Peter’s Court in Lowestoft.

Fire officers are particularly concerned to ensure the safety of residential properties because people are likely to be asleep inside them – if a fire breaks out in a high-rise office anyone inside is likely to be wide awake from the start and able to make a quick getaway.

Mr Hardingham said Suffolk’s fire crews would be keen to learn the lessons from the tragedy: “In time I am sure there will be things that we will all need to learn and reflect on from this tragic fire and we will do this with fire service colleagues from across the country.”

Residents of tower block get reassurance from Ipswich council landlord

Tenants of Ipswich Council’s Cumberland Towers block of sheltered homes had personal visits from housing officers to try to reassure them after the London tragedy.

The 12-storey block became sheltered homes for senior citizens in the 1980s – and is currently being refurbished.

After the London fire, council officials spoke to tenants to assure them that the design of the London building was totally different to theirs – and the cladding being used to improve it was not the same as that used in Kensington.

They have also sent a letter from the borough’s head of housing Ian Blofield, which says: “The Cumberland Towers system meets all Fire Safety and Building Regulations standards.

“We will monitor the investigation into the London fire and take any learning necessary from it.”

Any tenants with concerns are asked to call the housing team at the council on 01473 432752.

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