Suspected arson in Doncaster tower block as bosses look into sprinklers

Yaqrub Ahmedi, 28, and friend Hiwa Hamad, 34, outside Cusworth House, where Yaqrub believes he was the victim of an attempted arson
Yaqrub Ahmedi, 28, and friend Hiwa Hamad, 34, outside Cusworth House, where Yaqrub believes he was the victim of an attempted arson

Residents believe an attempted arson attack has been carried out in a Doncaster high rise block - just days after 79 died in a fire in London tower.

One shocked resident told how he returned home to his flat in Cusworth House, Balby Bridge, to find part of his letter box had been melted by someone he believes to have been trying to post burning material through it on Sunday. The flap on the letter box had been broken off.

Gaz Hamilton, aged 36, a former Sandbeck House resident

Gaz Hamilton, aged 36, a former Sandbeck House resident

The incident comes as Doncaster housing bosses revealed they are considering fitting sprinkler systems as a fire preventative measure in all the borough's high rise blocks, and stressed the Doncaster flats do not have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower.

The suspected arson attack in Doncaster is thought to have happened on Sunday between 9am and 7.30pm.

Resident Yaqrub Ahmedi, aged 28, says he called police after discovering the damage to his home.

He said: "Someone tried to set fire to the letter box - it's unbelievable.

Bafraw Mohammad, 33, outside Cusworth House, Balby Bridge

Bafraw Mohammad, 33, outside Cusworth House, Balby Bridge

"It's really scary. It's insane that something like this has happened after what has just happened in London."

He said he was now thinking about asking for a move following the incident.

A statement from South Yorkshire Police said: "It was reported to police sometime between 8.50am and 7.30pm on Sunday 18 June, the door of a flat in Cusworth House in Hyde Park, Doncaster had been damaged by what is thought to have been a possible fire.

"No one was hurt in the incident and minor damage was caused to the door of the flat.

"Officers are currently investigating the reported incident and anyone with any information, or witnesses to the incident, are asked to contact police on 101 quoting incident number 1206 of 18 June."

The concerns are raised at a time when many residents are concerned over safety following the Grenfell Tower fire in London last week which saw 79 people lose their lives. Investigation are ongoing into the cause, but some experts have raised concerns over cladding that had been fitted to the London tower.

Mum Bafraw Mohammad, aged 33, also a resident at Cusworth House, said she did not feel safe after what had happened in London.

She said: "I want to move. After what happened in London it does not feel safe."

But she added there other issues that caused concerns for her, such as the reliability of the lifts, which she said sometimes broke down.

But another resident. Majawa Mpache, aged 46, said there was an alarm practice every Wednesday and was not concerned over fire. He said he though the bigger issue in the area was anti-social behaviour.

Gaz Hamilton. aged 36, moved out of he high rise Sandbeck House six weeks ago. He said: "Fire was something that I was worried about even then. They put a cladding on the outside of the flats here. I would certainly urge St Leger Homes to put sprinklers in."

But he said it had been anti-social behaviour in the area that had made him choose to move out after two years.

St Leger Homes, which looks after Doncaster's council housing, has nine high rise accommodation blocks.

They Cusworth House, Sandbeck House, Firbeck House, Silverwood House, Hatfield House, and Methley House, in Balby Bridge; and Shaftsbury House, Lonsdale House and Westminster House in Intake.

But none have the same cladding as at Grenfell Tower. The Doncaster towers are fitted with a render cladding, which is applied to the side of the building like cement.

The organisation already carries out daily checks to the communal areas to maintain a ‘sterile’ space. It also already carries out annual fire risk assessments and regular testing of the fire alarms.

In addition to what staff normally do, they have been double checking again all the building materials used in external improvements – especially cladding. They are also reassuring tenants and residents and are actively investigating the potential to fit sprinklers.

A statement from St Leger Homes said: "Our thoughts continue to go out to all the families and friends affected by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower block in London.

"It is not clear yet what started the fire or how it was able to progress so quickly, but we will be closely monitoring the investigation to ensure we can take on board and apply any findings which may be relevant to our properties.

"What we do know is that the cladding system used at Grenfell Tower is not an External Wall Insulation (EWI) render system which we use across our properties in Doncaster. We have nine tower blocks and none use the cladding used at Grenfell Tower. We already carry out annual fire risk assessments and regular testing of our fire alarms throughout these properties to ensure the safety of our tenants – and these will continue.

"In addition to what we normally do, we have been double checking again all the building materials used in external improvements to ensure tenants can be reassured that they are fit for purpose.

"This week we are reissuing our fire safety advice to tenants in tower blocks – these will have already been given to tenants when they moved into their homes, but we want to ensure that people have the opportunity to refamiliarise themselves with these.

"If you remain concerned or have any further queries, please contact our customer relations team on 01302 862726 or you can email them at Customercare@stlegerhomes.co.uk.

Coun Glyn Jones, Doncaster Council's deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said his thoughts were with the London fire victims families. He added: the authority was looking at what could be done to improve safety of the blocks.

He added there was no timescale for sprinklers, as the council did not yet know what money Government would be making available, but personally he would like to move quickly if sprinklers were to be fitted.

* South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is reassuring residents about its response arrangements for high rise buildings.

Head of Prevention and Protection Steve Helps said the thoughts of fire service members were with those affected by the tragedy in London.

He said: “Our fire safety officers work closely with Building Control bodies, building owners and Local Authority partners on a day to day basis to ensure that new buildings, and significant alterations or refurbishments to existing buildings, meet the requirements of the appropriate Building Regulations. They also carry out fire safety audits of buildings to identify any deficiencies, and help those responsible for building safety to comply with their legal obligations.”

If you have a fire safety concern about a high rise building, please contact the Fire Safety team at tfs.cs@syfire.gov.uk

Anyone living in South Yorkshire can request a Home Safety Check visit from ourselves – call 0114 253 2314