Loughton tenants claim they were told to escape through windows during blaze

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Residents voice fire safety fears after witnessing a fire last week Residents voice fire safety fears after witnessing a fire last week

Tenants worried about fire safety in their block of flats claim they have been told by the council to jump out of a window onto a mattress in the event of a blaze.

Residents of Epping Forest District Council-owned homes in Highwood Lane, Loughton, have grown increasingly anxious after witnessing a fatal fire at a nearby home in Monksgrove, which resulted in the death of Betty Jager, on March 5.

They claim there has been a lack of information from the council despite repeated requests.

There is concern over the layout of the flats, with the kitchen by the front door, which people fear could prevent escape.

Neighbours Karl Bruno and Vicky Gilman are calling for further clarification after they say they were both told to use a mattress and the window to flee the flames.

Mr Bruno, of Highwood Lane, said: “We are now worried more than ever about fire safety and the lack of knowledge from the council for what we can do if fire does break out.

“We have contacted the council on many occasions to ask what to do in the event of a fire and have been told to jump out of the window onto a mattress.

“This is not on as we live on the second and third storey.”

Ms Gilman said: “If there’s a fire in the kitchen then we can’t get out.

“We would have to go through the fire to get to our front door and my front door isn’t even a fire door so it won’t stop the fire spreading.

“The rubbish chute is worrying too because if it gets blocked it would only take someone throwing away a lit cigarette to start a fire.”

Epping Forest District Council (EFDC) say the flats passed a recent fire risk assessment, but more is being done to reassure residents.

It said it is in the process of upgrading all front entrance doors and agreed to subsidise the cost to leaseholders of a self-closing fire door by up to 75 per cent.

It is also currently fitting smoke alarms in all its properties.

An EFDC spokesman said: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety and wellbeing of our residents.

“That means a combination of advice and financial investment to improve safety in all our housing.

"I don’t think we would ever suggest someone should try to jump from an upstairs window unless they were in the most extreme circumstances.

"Everything would depend on the person, the condition of the building and the fire."

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