Today, a fire broke out on the 13th floor of Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats on the Silchester Estate opposite Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.
We are very relieved to hear the Fire was soon contained and that no one was hurt and we thank the Fire Brigade for putting out the blaze and for their prompt response and presence at the scene. We also thank both the Fire Brigade and the local Police for securing the scene and ensuring that residents were evacuated from the building.
This has been truly upsetting and traumatising for our local community two years and two months on since Grenfell and especially for residents of Markland House, which is located just across the road from Grenfell
We do not have any details of the causes of the fire, but we spoke to some residents of the building outside.
A resident of the 16th floor had been with her husband and smelt smoke at around 11:30am. Initially her husband had thought the smell was cigarette smoke coming from the balcony. She told us “We were there a little longer before we realised that’s not cigarette smoke and looked out to see smoke billowing out from the 13th floor. We got out of the flat, alerted our neighbours and left the building straight away.”
Some residents praised the caretaker of Markland House who had also helped alert residents and evacuate the block.
Other residents expressed their concerns that RBKC had not installed a fire alarm in the building. One resident who lives on the 7th floor who arrived back to find the flats cordoned off, told us “there hasn’t been a fire alarm installed in the hall, all the council did was to repaint the stairs two days after Grenfell and that’s all”. The resident also expressed his relief that the block had not been refurbished like Grenfell and that the block did not have cladding on it.
We spoke to Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (pictured above) , former RBKC Deputy Mayor and Labour councillor for St Helen’s Ward the neighbouring ward to Notting Dale, where Grenfell Tower, the Lancaster West Estate and the Silchester Estate are all located.
He told us “I am saddened and remember everything that happened on the 14th of June , since lost their lives in Grenfell l two years ago. I was anxious and worries but I am relieved that nobody was injured but this is shocking for the community.”
Cllr Baktiar also expressed his concern that about how access for the Fire Brigade to the buildings was made more difficult by the 2014 redevelopment of part of Frinstead House and the buildings to the rear of it if another such fire was to occur of a more serious nature.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the Silchester Estate has four 20 storey blocks of flats – Markland House, Dixon House and Frinstead House on the west side of the estate and Whitstable House on the east side of the estate.
Last year, in July, a fire broke out on the 16th floor of Whitstable House (pictured below) , the nearest tower to Grenfell and on the same side of the road ( known as the tower next door”). Fortunately this fire had been easily contained and nobody had been hurt in But today, some nearby residents, expressed their concerns that there are still no sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms provided in the communal areas in their blocks.
To mark the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell in June, Grenfell United projected a series of messages on to a series of buildings around the country to draw attention to lack of safety in tower blocks. One, below, projected on to Frinstead House said “2 years after Grenfell this building still has no sprinklers”
Back in March 2018, we posted this about lifts in Dixon House not working:
Today we briefly saw one RBKC Cabinet member outside Markland House today – Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke, Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, outside who kindly asked asked how we were. We asked her for a statement and she suggested that we contact the RBKC Communications Team.
So we will ask them here (and we will post their response of course)
THINK join local residents in querying why there have been no sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers or fire alarms fitted in any of these high rise blocks of flats more than two years after Grenfell. We also ask Elizabeth Campbell, Leader of RBKC and Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader as well as member for Grenfell, Housing and Property, to respond to us and to the concerns raised above.
But above all, we believe that action speaks louder than words and remind them that mere statements to the media will not alleviate residents’ very real concerns about fire safety provisions (or lack of) by this council in and around their homes here – so we ask RBKC to listen to this community and act on this now.
For anyone feeling distressed by today’s incident, the NHS Outreach Service can be contacted on 020 8962 4393
UPDATE: RBKC has posted this with a statement from Kim Taylor-Smith on their website :