In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the immediate response of the Housing Executive in maintaining its 32 high-rise blocks was to check the fire extinguishers and put up informational posters attempting to reassure residents that, if a fire did occur, the situation was prepared for and safety checks carried out. Their message was that a tragedy like Grenfell could never occur here but, the day before the Grenfell death toll was announced, a major fire occurred in a Housing Executive high-rise in Dunmurry.
The Coolmoyne House fire occurred on the ninth floor when a resident’s toaster combusted and they failed to extinguish it themselves. The fire service arrived and quickly had the blaze under control, with two people being hospitalised for minor injuries. The statements made by all the relevant bodies following the event focused on how the fire was dealt with as expected. However, the fire highlighted the lack of sprinklers in the building, despite research showing that this reduces the risk of fatalities in a major fire by 87%. The Housing Executive’s use of private contractors for repairs has also impaired their ability to respond to an event like this properly.
No one should have to live in an unsafe home. A number of households have left Coolmoyne due to the Housing Executive’s inaction following the fire, fearing for their safety. The sad reality is residents are leaving the regulated social housing sector to be put at the mercy of landlordism. Instead, residents must organise and demand their lives take priority over austerity budgets.
By Coolmoyne House residents