The dangers of obstructing fire exits were again highlighted last week after firefighters were called out to a blaze in the stairwell of a block of flats in Leicestershire.
One woman was checked over by paramedics because of smoke inhalation after the incident last Thursday (January 31st) in Rutland Street, Melton, but residents had a lucky escape.
The Leicester Mercury reveals that while initial reports suggested the block of flats – with four people and a dog – was on fire, the conflagration was actually consigned to a stairwell.
Upon arrival, fire crews found that a sofa had been dumped in front of the fire exit and had caught alight – forcing four firefighters to enter wearing breathing equipment. Residents were also asked to remain in their flats while the blaze was tackled.
Incident commander Bill Smith, of nearby Melton fire station, told the news provider that investigations are ongoing, but that the incident could have had much worse consequences.
“At this stage, we don’t know how the settee was ignited. The fire caused smoke-logging to two floors of flats, which worried the residents. We put the fire out and told them to stay inside,” he noted.
“It’s very dangerous to discard any combustible materials at a fire exit. If it ignites, people can’t escape.
“We also need to make sure people have smoke detectors fitted and working and that they test them regularly.”
Firefighters had been called to the incident at 17:25 GMT and put out the fire just 35 minutes later, but fire safety officers are keen to stress that fire exits must remain clear at all times.
Communal areas in these types of buildings require a fire risk assessment under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and to act on any of the hazards identified.
Failure to do so can lead to an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to two years for the Responsible Person.