Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Residents homeless after fire at flats

RESIDENTS of five Henley flats have been left homeless for up to a year after a fire.

RESIDENTS of five Henley flats have been left homeless for up to a year after a fire.

The blaze happened at the Malthouse building off New Street at tea time on Friday after a hairdryer and electrical adaptor caught fire in the bedroom of a woman’s flat on the first floor of the three-story block.

The owner dialled 999 and alerted neighbours, who evacuated the building. Four people were treated at the scene for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Firefighters arrived to tackle the blaze and police closed the street for about 90 minutes.

Large orange flames could be seen after the rear window of the woman’s flat was smashed by the heat of the fire and a plume of black smoke hung over the area.

Patrick and Janice Pool were in the flat next door when the blaze started.

Mr Pool said: “Our neighbour rang our buzzer and suggested we should leave at once because there was a fire raging in her flat.

“We went outside and saw this ginormous fire and we went round to Radnor Close to look from the other side and it was absolutely horrific.”

The couple were able to return to their flat the following day and found the wall between the flats was still warm from the heat of the flames.

“The fire didn’t come through the wall, thank God, but the smoke and smog and dirt did,” said Mr Pool. “In a modern building like that the whole thing could have burnt down.”

He said the woman’s flat had been gutted and blackened by the fire.

Frances Oldershaw, who was staying with a friend in adjacent Brakspear Mews, said: “It all happened so quickly, it was quite frightening. There was smoke billowing out.”

Matthieu Gougeon, 17, who lives in New Street with his parents, spotted the smoke from the fire while outside their house.

“My parents were about to drive off and the street was covered in smoke,” he said.

Thirty firefighters from Henley, Watlington, Didcot, Reading and Eynsham tackled the blaze.

Eight firefighters wearing breathing apparatus spent an hour extinguishing the flames and then checking for hot spots. Incident commander John Nixon said: “Although our crews arrived very quickly at the scene, I was surprised how quickly the fire took hold. I believe the prompt actions taken by our crews prevented a far worse situation occurring.”

One resident thanked firefighters during public participation time at Tuesday’s meeting of Henley Town Council. The 78-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said: “You never know quite how devastating a fire can be until you are close to it.

“I was lucky but so many people are now homeless because of the damage. The firemen were very courageous and it took a long time to put the fire out. I am grateful to them.”

Charles Thomasson, lettings manager for Robinson Sherston, who manage the building, said five of the 11 flats would be uninhabitable for between six and 12 months due to smoke damage and water damage caused by melted pipes.

“The worst affected flats will need to be completely rebuilt and refurbished while others will need deep- cleaning,” he said.

Among those made homeless are a couple with an eight-week-old baby and a three-year-old child who lived in the flat beneath the one where the fire started.

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