Stevenage flat fire victims say conditions are ‘uninhabitable’

FAMILIES who were rescued from burning flats have been told it is safe to return to their homes despite extensive fire damage in the block.

Residents living in a two-storey building on Ripon Road, Stevenage, were helped to safety by firefighters after a blaze broke out shortly after 7pm on Sunday.

Some of those treated at the scene for smoke inhalation have spoken to the Comet about the moment the blaze started and the situation they now face.

“Our neighbour Jay shouted down from the window ‘don’t open your front door’,” said Yvonne McCollum, who lives with her daughter Shelley-Anne Nicholson, 32, and granddaughter Chloe Rose, 12.

Ms McCollum, 57, who has a terminal illness, said: “The smoke was coming from under the door and I was sitting on an oxygen tank so it was highly dangerous.

“The fire brigade were already here but I phoned them to tell them there was oxygen here because it’s highly flammable. Eventually the fireman came to help us out.”

Ms McCollum said she has not been offered alternative accommodation.

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“None of us can sleep at night,” she added. “I was in a big fire years ago and it brought that all back when I lost everything. Nobody knows how long we’re going to have to suffer with this. Breathing in and out the smoke is awful.

“We can’t get an answer from the council as to what they’re going to do but they should be putting people up in hostels or something. It’s not suitable to live in.”

Jay Lewis, who lives with his partner Shareen Ellis and her 18-month-old daughter Tia-Leigh, said: “I was about to step out the door for a cigarette when I saw the fire. I just shouted through the window to let everyone know. Everyone was panicking but I just did what I had to do.

“Now it looks like the ceilings have been painted black.”

Daryl Pomroy, who was taken to Lister Hospital with his five-year-old son Adam for further treatment, added: “Apparently I am allowed to move back into my flat, which I believe was the worst hit.

“But the state of the property in my eyes is uninhabitable. We’re tenants and I feel it’s not good enough.”

Residents have claimed the fire was started by two young boys who were seen outside the building but following an investigation with the fire service, a spokesman for Hertfordshire Constabulary said: “We’re satisfied there was no deliberate intent to start a fire. All parties involved have been dealt with.”

A Stevenage Borough Council spokesman said: “An investigation of the damage has been undertaken by the council’s housing service and the fire service, and it has been deemed safe for occupation.

“We have spoken to all our tenants and, based on their individual circumstances, have either advised them to return to the property or offered them temporary emergency accommodation. Repairs will be carried out as soon as possible.”