Council fail to do fire audit on 'death trap' flats
In 2002 an investigation into the deaths of two young children at the Bride Street/Ross Road flats in Dublin recommended that a fire safety audit be carried out by the council. Nearly four years on the audit has not been completed. Emma Browne reportsDublin City Council has failed to complete a fire safety audit on a flat complex in Dublin despite this being recommended almost four years ago after the deaths of two children in the flats in 2001. The flats have been described as a “death trap” by an independent fire consultant.
In 2002 a report into the deaths of the two children at the flats recommended that a fire safety audit of all the Ross Road/Bride Street flats be carried. Last October an independent fire consultant, Robert Knox, said the Ross Road flats were a “death trap”. At the time Dublin City Council (DCC) said that a fire safety audit was underway and would be published in four weeks. Fifteen weeks later the council has still not published the audit. In February Village asked DCC about the fire safety audit. They said that the audit had been conducted prior to Christmas and would be published shortly. In March Village again asked DCC about the audit. They said that the auditor was revisiting the sites. However earlier this month Sinn Féin Councilor Daithi Doolan asked the City Manager about the audit and was told that it had only begun in January 2006. According to the residents committee at the flats the audit only began two weeks ago. Doolan says DCC are trying to “bury the issue” and have made “no progress”.
In 2001 two children died in a bedroom of their home in the Ross Road section of the flats. They were Clayton (3) and Chelsea Maher (6). In May 2005 a 44 year old man died in his flat as a result of fire inhalation from a fire as well. A subsequent investigation into the fire that killed the two children found there was no smoke detector in the lobby between their and their mother's bedroom; and no fire door between the living room – where the fire started – and their bedrooms; or a window big enough for the children to escape. The fire safety assessment report recommended that a fire safety audit be carried out; more smoke alarms be installed; fire doors be inspected; fire training for tenants. DCC say that all these recommendations have been carried out. But residents say that they did not see any evidence of an audit and received no training. The council said they had offered training but were still waiting to hear back from residents regarding it.
Robert Knox's investigation says that the flats still do not meet fire safety regulations. In the Ross Road block he found that there were inadequate means of escape; inadequate alarm system; inadequate compartmentation and defective fire doors. His most damning finding was that some of the fire doors were counterfeit. He concluded that “these flats were designed and constructed as death traps and they are death traps.” Village asked DCC if any of the doors in the complex were counterfeit; if they have been replaced; and to respond to Robert Knox's report. They did not answer these questions.
Doolan says that there are fire safety concerns for the general Dublin area as well. “No fire risk assessment has been carried out in Dublin for 20 years, despite repeated requests from frontline firefighting staff”. Also, the number of firemen and ambulances has not increased in line with the 25 per cent population growth in the Dublin area in the last 20 years. There has been only one additional ambulance in that timeframe. “Dublin Fire Brigade must cater to a geographic region approximately 365 sq miles in size and containing a population of 1,122,821 persons with eleven ambulances over ten stations.” On 21 March Sinn Féin launched a fire discussion document, entitled “A Safer Dublin”, which makes proposals on tackling the fire safety risk in Dublin. The report identifies several problems in Dublin. A shortage of ambulances: in a fire on Dublin's South Quays on 21 February 2004 which left five people dead eight ambulances needed to be deployed leaving only three for the rest of the county. Finglas has no equipment for mass decontamination despite having some of the largest chemical sites in the State. Ambulance trolleys often get held up in A&E for two to three hours meaning the ambulances cannot be redeployed. The fire tenders can only reach seven storeys high and there are no plans to get higher ones. Nationally there is a lack of consistency from county to county.