About 50 people spent the night away from their homes following a blaze in a west London tower block.

The Shepherd’s Bush Green blaze affected five floors of the 18-storey Shepherds Court building, resulting in its evacuation. The blaze damaged around a quarter of a four-room flat on the seventh floor, half of a flat on the eighth floor, around a quarter of a flat on the ninth floor, half of a flat on the tenth floor and a small part of the flat on the eleventh floor.

Shadwell fire station manager Paul Hobbs said: "The fire spread from the seventh floor via the outside of the building. Crews wearing breathing apparatus used jets to extinguish the fire on each floor of the building. They worked quickly in difficult conditions to tackle the fire."

Traffic Chaos

At the height of the blaze, nearby Tube Shepherd’s Bush station, on the opposite side of Shepherd’s Bush Green, was closed and the adjacent West 12 shopping centre was evacuated. Shepherd’s Bush Green remained closed in both directions and roads near the area were sealed off, leading to queues in surrounding areas including Holland Road and Uxbridge Road.

The dramatic sight brought rush-hour London to a standstill as onlookers gathered at the police tape, where the surrounding roads were closed, to watch the incident unfold.

Lessons learned

While the cause of the fire was identified as a tumble dryer and the dangers of household appliances (especially tumble dryers have been highlighted) the bigger issue here is how passive fire measures could have slowed the progress of the fire giving time for the fire brigade to extinguish it before it spread across a number of floors.

Building owners, employers, landlords, headteachers, hotel managers, estates managers and many other people now shoulder the legal responsibility for fire safety and are required to appoint a ‘Responsible Person’ for each building they own or manage.

Under the Fire Safety Order, the responsible person has to ensure that an annual fire risk assessment is carried out and in most cases, documented. The risk assessment has to demonstrate that adequate attention has been paid to all aspects of fire safety management, including active and passive fire measures, signage, means of escape and evacuation procedures. Where in-depth knowledge is lacking, the responsible person has a duty to engage someone with the relevant expertise to be able to implement or advise on key areas. 

Fire Safety Order

Under the Fire Safety Order, the responsibility for maintaining fire safety in non-domestic buildings falls to the responsible person. By law, you are required to nominate a responsible person if you are:

  • Responsible for business premises
  • An employer or self-employed with business premises
  • Responsible for a part of a dwelling where that part is solely used for business purposes
  • A charity or voluntary organisation
  • A contractor with a degree of control over any premises
  • Providing accommodation to paying guests

The responsible person must:

  • Ensure that a fire safety risk assessment is carried out
  • Implement and maintain a fire management plan

Part of this risk assessment and fire management plan must consider the safe installation, maintenance and inspection of fire doors.

The person responsible for fire safety in Scotland is called the ‘duty holder’, while in Northern Ireland they are known as the ‘appropriate person’. However, the duties of this person, regardless of country, are the same: to carry out the fire risk assessment and ensure the safety of anyone using their premises.

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