MP Andy Slaughter speaks out in Parliament following tower block blaze
Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter last week secured a debate in Parliament following the tower block blaze in Shepherd's Bush which has been blamed by the Fire Brigade on a faulty Indesit tumble dryer.
The motion of the debate, on Tuesday September 13 was 'The fire risk from faulty tumble dryers'.
Echoing the words of the Fire Brigade, who want Indesit’s parent company, Whirlpool, to change their current advice to consumers as a matter of urgency, the MP said that faulty domestic appliances must be put out of use and recalled if potential tragedies like last month's fire in Shepherds Bush are to be avoided.
Alongside the debate, he issued a statement about the fire and the effect it has had on residents.
Mr Slaughter said:
" On the afternoon of 19 August, Debbie Defreitas was in the kitchen of her home on the seventh floor of Shepherds Court, a 18-storey block of flats overlooking Shepherd's Bush Green.
She became aware of a burning smell and, because her Indesit tumble dryer was the only device switched on, unplugged this and pulled it away from the wall. When she opened the door smoke came out.
Debbie rang the fire brigade and retreated onto the landing. When firefighters arrived and entered the flat the fire had taken hold. Thick smoke filled the building and flames arced upwards into other properties.
Over 100 families were evacuated, 26 were found temporary accommodation in hotels. There is substantial damage both to individual flats and the block. Nine families, including the Defreitases are still unable to return home. 20 fire engines and 120 firefighters fought the blaze.
I spent some hours at the scene on the evening of 19 August. I cannot praise highly enough the firefighters who risked their lives, the residents who showed incredible spirit and resilience despite losing their homes and in some cases all their possessions. Council officers and local councillors Sue Fennimore and Adam Connell worked into the early hours to ensure people were fed, comforted and found decent places to stay.
What is most remarkable is that apart from three minor injuries, no one was hurt in the blaze, though the trauma, especially for those who witnessed the worst of the fire, may well have a longer-term effect. But the circumstances are very similar to the Lakanhal House fire in Southwark in 2009 where six people died. That, or worse, could easily have happened here.
We await the publication of investigations into the Shepherds Court fire, but one thing is already clear: Mrs Defreitas was following to the letter the advice given her by Whirlpool, the owners of Indesit. Despite a fault affecting over five million dryers supplied by the company’s brands, they continue to tell customers ‘you may continue to use your tumble dryer whilst waiting for the modification, however, we require that you do not leave your dryer unattended during operation’.
Whirlpool is not the only manufacturer trying to deal with defective dryers and other white goods which pose a fire risk. The London Fire Brigade estimates that there is one fire caused by white goods every day in London alone. The Local Government Association that represents all fire authorities says there are three fires a day caused just by tumble dryers England and Wales. Some cause minor damage, some are on the scale of Shepherds Court and some have resulted in deaths and serious injuries.
The Government is not short of advice. Two years ago the inquest into the death of Santosh Benjamin, caused by a defective Beko fridge/freezer, called for a new system of product recall. As did the independent review into product recall under consumer champion Lynn Faulds Wood which reported in February this year. The LFB’s Total Recalls campaign, Which? and ‘Expect it’s safe’ set up by solicitors Leigh Day who represent many of the victims of white goods fires, have made similar demands."
Andy Slaughter's letter concludes:" There is little sign so far of the government being prepared to stand up to the powerful industry lobby. This must change. Most urgent is an instruction to Whirlpool and other manufacturers to change their approach to customers: faulty appliances that may cause fires must be taken out of use and recalled and replaced immediately."
A spokesman for Whirlpool said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this incident. The cause of the fire is currently unknown and we will assist London Fire Brigade in any way we can as they investigate.
“The safety of consumers is our number one priority and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the tumble dryer modification programme is carried out in a safe and timely manner.
“We urge everyone who owns an Indesit, Hotpoint or Creda dryer manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 to check if their dryer is affected and then register for a free modification if it is.”
London Fire Brigade is inviting residents to join its Total Recalls campaign is calling for changes that will make white goods safer and stop fires like this ruining lives. You can find out more about the campaign here.
You can find out if your product is subject to a product recall or safety notice here.
If it is, London Fire Brigade's advice is to stop using it immediately.
September 19, 2016
August 19, 2016