Gateshead tower block fires leave residents ‘on edge

People living in a 20-storey tower block say they feel unsafe after a second fire in six months.

The latest blaze at Redheugh Court, in Gateshead, started on the fifth floor on Saturday.

About 200 people live in the building, with resident Steven Chambers describing those living there as being “on edge”.

Gateshead Council, which owns the property, said the alarm system worked in the way it was intended.

Mr Chambers said residents had been feeling unsafe since a fire on Christmas Eve last year, which saw police charge a man with arson.

He said he could hear smoke alarms on Saturday, but added there was no system in place to alert the whole building.

“They are self-contained blocks, but you don’t know if it’s going to spread through the communal area or what the plan of action for escape is going to be.

“I had no idea there was a fire just above my flat until the neighbour knocked on my window. It’s dangerous.”

He said he keeps a bag with water, food and clothes by his door in case he needs to “get out” quickly.

He also alleged safety work to install fire doors had resulted in workmen cutting telephone lines and warned some elderly residents were “left without any outward communication” in the event of an emergency.

In a statement, Gateshead Council said: “The fire alarm system in each flat is designed to warn the resident of the property that there is a fire, rather than alert the entire building.

“Each flat is designed to contain any potential fire until Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service attend, which is what has happened in this instance.

“We are currently installing new fire doors throughout the block, which can involve moving and re-routing cables such as telephone lines.

“If cables do need to be moved or disturbed, this work is carried out by a specialist contractor. Any disruption to services is only temporary and we would not leave a customer’s home without reinstating these services.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service confirmed Saturday’s fire was caused by an “accidental fire” within a flat.