Mihaela Gheorghe, Barking Reach residents’ association
I woke up on 9 September to learn about the fire that happened at Worcester Park, south west London, exactly three months after the fire that took place in Samuel Garside House in Barking, the building where I live.
Fortunately, like in our situation, there were no casualties. But the impact of the fire and the trauma it has inflicted on us all, as residents, will stay with us forever.
Initial reports say that flames quickly spread to all four floors of the building at Worcester Park, probably as a result of wooden cladding, very similar to that on Samuel Garside house.
Like our fire, some 125 firefighters and 20 fire engines tackled the blaze, which started, residents suspect, on the wooden balconies, which would again be exactly like ours. The danger was greater in Worcester Park because the fire took place at night and once again it’s a miracle that no one died.
After Grenfell, the government confirmed a ban on some of the combustible cladding, but only on high-rise buildings over 18 metres. This still allows all those deadly flammable materials to be used on low-rise buildings.
We were all extremely lucky to get out of the flames in time and we want to force the government to change the building regulations. If not lives will be lost. The reality of that happening is likely – a matter of when, not if.
Wooden cladding still decorates the first phase of the Riverside estate from one side to the other. We’re still waiting to see whether the builders and landlords will act on our demands that all flammable cladding be removed.
Samuel Garside residents, alongside all the residents of the Barking Riverside estate, condemned the government for its failure to force landlords to remove the evident danger to life, and its philosophy of deregulation and privatisation. Our Barking Reach residents’ association is conducting its own independent enquiry to expose the failings.
In our case, a fire risk assessment clearly pointed to the danger the continuous decorative wood on the balconies posed and yet the landlord failed to take sufficient action to remove it. Was there a fire risk assessment done in Worcester Park? The Worcester Park residents have our wholehearted support and solidarity during this difficult time.