Reassurance for Sunderland’s high-rise residents after London horror blaze

The Grenfell Tower is engulfed in flames (AP)
The Grenfell Tower is engulfed in flames (AP)
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Housing bosses are to drive home the fire safety message to high-rise residents in Sunderland after the horrific Grenfell Tower disaster.

At least 12 people died when flames tore through the 24-storey block in north Kensington on Tuesday night, leaving people trapped on upper floors - some holding babies out of windows and others jumping from their flats.

Fire tears through the Grenfell Tower (Natalie_Oxford/PA)

Fire tears through the Grenfell Tower (Natalie_Oxford/PA)

Gentoo owns and manages 26 high rise buildings in Sunderland, containing more than 2,000 homes.

Chief executive John Craggs said: “We are deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news from Grenfell Tower and our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

“At Gentoo we are committed to ensuring our customers feel safe in their homes. We are confident we exceed all statutory and regulatory requirements in relation to fire safety and we work jointly with Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) on what is one of our key priorities.

“From a customer safety perspective, we have a range of safety measures in place, including extensive fire and heat detection measures; 24-hour concierge service which monitors fire alarm activations in individual flats and fire prevention advice in conjunction with TWFRS.

We are deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news from Grenfell Tower and our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected.

John Craggs

“Our local teams will be contacting customers living in high rise buildings across Sunderland over the coming days to reinforce the measures listed above and to confirm our ongoing commitment to keeping them safe.

“As part of our ongoing monitoring and review of fire safety, we carry out fire risk assessments to priority buildings on an annual basis. The most recent assessment was carried out by an external independent specialist, which gave us further assurance on the effectiveness of the measures we have in place.

“To ensure continued compliance, we also have a rigid Permit to Work Policy which prevents unauthorised work from being carried out in these buildings.

“We continue to work in partnership with TWFRS and last year worked together on a number of initiatives, including emergency training exercises for fires in high rise buildings and the installation of a full sprinkler system at our D’arcy Court high rise, which was part of planned modernisation programme.

John Craggs

John Craggs

“In light of recent events, we will of course be reviewing our policies and procedures around fire safety in conjunction with TWFRS.”

Some bodies have been removed from the smouldering remains of Grenfell Tower, which contains 120 flats thought to be home to between 400 and 600 people.

Commander Stuart Cundy of the Metropolitan Police said: “Sadly I can confirm that there are now 12 people that have died that we know of.

“This is going to be a long and complex recovery operation and I do anticipate that the number of fatalities will sadly increase beyond those 12.”

Steve Apter, director of safety and assurance at London Fire Brigade, said: “I can confirm I have had firefighters manage to get through particularly arduous conditions up to the top floor.”

London Fire Brigade said it had rescued 65 people from the building.

Mr Cundy added: “Whilst we may have accessed every floor that is not the same as a full search of the whole building, and as I said while we currently sadly have 12 fatalities, I do believe that figure will rise and sadly I don’t anticipate that there will be further survivors.”