Norfolk’s assistant chief fire officer describes difficulties crews face when tackling tower block fires

Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in west London (Picture: Ri

Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 27-storey Grenfell Tower in west London (Picture: Rick Findler/PA Wire) - Credit: PA

Norfolk's assistant chief fire officer has described the difficulties crews face when tackling fires in high-rise buildings.

Lez Britzman said incidents such as the huge blaze at Grenfell Tower in London were both physically strenuous and logistically demanding.

But he assured tower block tenants across the county that Norfolk's firefighters were well-trained to deal with such incidents.

His comments come as crews in London continue to tackle a high-rise blaze in London, which has so far claimed the lives of six people.

'These fires are difficult in terms of the number of resources,' Mr Britzman said. 'Because you need more personnel and you have to get water up to a certain height.

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'It's also harder to see the scene of operation, as it is inside a building, and it's also physically strenuous for the firefighters.

'Thankfully, these fires are very rare and in most cases they will remain in the room or flat of origin.'

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Mr Britzman said crews in Norfolk train regularly to deal with such incidents, and are also tasked with learning building layout plans.

The most recent training exercise took place at Norwich's Normandie towers in May, and involved around six crews from the area.

Mr Britzman said tower blocks were designed to prevent the spread of fire, with many featuring fire and smoke resistant doors.

But he stressed that people should still install smoke alarms in their flats and ensure doors are shut at night.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said it was regularly in touch with residents regarding any fire safety breaches.

It asks that all communal areas in tower blocks are kept free of items at all times.

A caretaker also carries out daily checks at all tower blocks, which include walking every floor, checking lifts and bin chutes, and all back stairs.

The council said there are eight tower blocks in Norwich, none of which have external cladding.

Some have speculated that it was the London tower block's external cladding which helped fuel the fire on Tuesday morning.

Mr Britzman said that while it was too early to say if it was a contributing factor, cladding would be 'taken into account' when looking at the risk of external fire spread.

Norfolk fire service is yet to send any crews to help with the London tower block fire.

Meanwhile the East of England Ambulance Service said it had been contacted to provide help with emergency calls around London's border.

How can residents keep safe in tower blocks?

Norfolk fire service has this advice for people to keep safe in high-rise buildings:

'The best thing people can do is ensure they take care and prevent fires occurring in the first place.

'Beware of smoking materials, candles and overloading electrical sockets. Take care when cooking and never leave a stove unattended.

'We cannot stress enough the need for working smoke alarms in flats so that people get the very earliest warning of fire in their own home.

'If a fire occurs in their own home they should GET OUT / STAY OUT and Call 999 – closing doors behind them.

'OR. ..If you can see Fire, Hear Fire or Smell Fire - GET OUT / STAY OUT and Call 999

'In more complex building such as high rise residents should be aware and follow the fire evacuation guidance for their building. Know your building

Top Tips for people living in high-rise accommodation:

• If you hear a fire alarm – do not ignore it.

• Understand your own building procedures. These should be clearly signposted around the building. Know your escape plan escape plan and quickest way out and alternative exit routes. Make sure everyone know about them.

• Keep exits and lobbies clear of obstructions, rubbish and combustible items.

• If you cannot leave your flat because the stairs and hallways are filled with smoke, ring 999 and stay inside the safest room. Keep the door closed and use towels or bedding at the bottom of the door to block the smoke.

• If you can safely leave - get out, stay out and sound the alarm.

• Use the stairs, not the lift.

• In the event of a fire, never assume that someone else has called 999. Make sure your neighbours know about the fire. Bang on their doors on your way out.

• Never tamper with any fire safety equipment including internal fire mains (dry riser) on landings. These provide water to firefighters when there is an emergency. It could cost lives if they're not working properly when there's a fire.

• If you see any equipment or fire doors vandalised or damaged - report it immediately to the manager of the building.

• If you have any concerns about the safety of your building report it to your landlord immediately.

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