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Two thirds of Birmingham’s 213 tower blocks only have one exit stairwell – and none have centralised fire alarm systems, a BBC investigation has found.Inside Out found fire doors that did not shut properly, others that were not fire resistant and wooden frames that would not stop a blaze spreading.An expert said council advice for people to ‘stay put’ if a fire breaks out was unsafe in one block he viewed.Birmingham City Council said it put residents’ safety “first and foremost”.
In the wake of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, the council said it would be fitting sprinklers at every block in the city. It also issued residents with fire survival guides which advises them to ‘stay put’ if a blaze breaks out. But when a BBC reporter visited Pritchett Tower, in Small Heath, with fire safety expert Arnold Tarling, they found features that would not prevent fire spreading from flat to flat. Fire doors to individual flats were not fitted correctly and would fail to provide 30 minutes of protection required in building regulations, he found.Plywood panels above door frames would also fail to stop fire spreading, Mr Tarling said.
At Bakeman House, in Yardley, the expert found defective fire doors that would provide less than 20 minutes’ fire protection – possibly just three or four minutes.Commenting after viewing Pritchett Tower, Mr Tarling, said: “You cannot rely in this building on a one-hour, fire compartment ‘stay put’ policy because the compartments are breached.”Pritchett Tower resident Mark Crook said residents felt “unsure and unsafe”, adding it was a “catastrophe waiting to happen”.
Birmingham City Council asked the BBC for more information on the defects found during the Pritchett Tower investigation, adding its own inspection only found one door that needed refitting. In respect of the wooden door frames, it said these fire doors and partitions were original fittings and were not required to meet current building regulations.The authority said it carried out yearly fire risk assessments at all blocks, with West Midlands Fire Service.It added inspections were “snapshots” and wear and tear or works carried out could change the outcome of subsequent checks.For the full report, watch Inside Out West Midlands on BBC One at 19:30 on Monday 16 October, or on iPlayer afterwards.
Source: BBC Black Country