“A fire of that magnitude is unprecedented anywhere, particularly in this country. When I turned on TV my initial thoughts were ‘where in the world is this’?”
The shock felt by David Rees, station commander at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service’s fire protection team, has been echoed across the nation after TV images of the devastating inferno at Grenfell Tower first hit our screens.
Fire crews on Thursday were at the largest accommodation block in Peterborough - Cumberland House, at St Mary’s Court, near the passport office - to take part in a drill which had been planned before the Grenfell disaster a fortnight ago.
The drill saw firefighters with masks on carrying their hoses up to the fifth floor where they acted out the procedures they would undertake in the event of a real fire.
But according to David an inspection of 38 of the county’s tallest blocks of flats a fortnight ago showed there are no major defaults which concern him.
“Out of the 38 buildings we found only one minor deficiency,” he said.
“We have reviewed all our policies and procedures, reviewed our audit programme and reviewed our high rise buildings and we are comfortable with that.”
Stuart Smith (50), chair of St Mary’s Court Residents’ Association, lives on the seventh floor out of 12 at the block of flats.
Asked if he had any concerns, he said: “None at all. The flats are like a contained concrete tube. There’s no issue of a fire getting through.”
Doors at each flat will resist a fire for at least 30 minutes, and residents are advised to stay inside should a blaze start elsewhere in the building.
Lawrence Ella, director of asset management at Cross Keys Homes, the housing association which manages the properties, said: “It reassures people that we are working with the fire service.”
Asked about cladding, he replied: “We do not have any aluminium cladding. There is just solid slab cemented on.”