Homerton block fire believed to be arson – man speaks of moment he felt heat from the blaze in his bedroom
PUBLISHED: 09:25 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:25 31 October 2019
A man has spoken of the terrifying moment he learnt his Homerton block was on fire – because he could feel the heat in his bedroom.
The "stay put" policy at the Wick Road block meant no alarms went off when the blaze broke out on the first floor lobby in a suspected arson attack on October 16.
The tenant, who has asked not to be named, said he had just got home from work and was in his third floor property when he started to smell smoke just after 6pm.
"I was getting changed in my room and sorting out washing," he said.
"You know when you can smell gas? I was sure I could smell a bonfire. Minutes later I was really sure I could smell a fire.
"I couldn't hear anything, so I thought: 'Whatever, it must be in the wind'. But then I was pretty sure I could feel heat. I opened the curtains and saw thick black smoke going past the window."
Despite the policy, 20 people, including the tenant, rushed outside the block.
Others who tried to get out were stuck in their first floor apartments because the doors were too hot to open.
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Firefighters gave them "vital survival guidance" over the phone, including telling them to block underneath their doors and open windows.
Crews tackled the small fire before leading a man, woman and five children to safety via an internal staircase.
Landlord Newlon Housing Trust wrote to people saying the compartmentation of the block contained the fire, but the tenant called the procedure "ridiculous", saying he would have had no idea of the fire at all if it occurred during the middle of the night.
The fire was brought under control in less than 90 minutes.
No one was injured, but Newlon said "a few" people have been placed in temporary housing due to the damage.
It is believed someone poured petrol on two front doors before setting fire to them.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson said officers were investigating but confirmed no arrests have yet been made.
A spokesperson for Newlon Housing Trust said: "We cannot comment on the cause of the fire as it is the subject of an active police and fire service investigation, except to say that it was not caused by any of the systems in the building.
"All the safety systems in the building operated as they should have done during the fire and no-one was hurt."
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