Builders called in to fix a leaking gutter start a fire which almost burns the house down

September 13, 2012 | by | 0 Comments

Builders called in to fix a leaky gutter made a mess of things when they started a fire – which gutted the property and the two neighbouring houses.

Heather Phelps, 44, called the hapless workmen to fix a problem with her gutters and left them to it while she went shopping.

One builder was then seen by neighbours on the roof trying to realign the gutters using hot bitumen and a blow torch.

Belinda Standbridge, 45, stands outside her fire damaged house (far right) after builders were called in to fix a gutter

Belinda Standbridge, 45, stands outside her fire damaged house (far right) after builders were called in to fix a gutter

Firefighters battle to contain the flames in the two properties

Firefighters battle to contain the flames in the two properties

But shortly afterwards a blaze broke out and within minutes the roof was on fire – which quickly spread to the other two properties in the terrace.

Heather returned to the £180,000 property to discover the roof burned down and the inside gutted – costing her thousands of pounds in damages and lost possessions.

The fire tore through the upper floor of two terraced houses and severely scorched the roof of a third.

One neighbour even had to be rescued from her bed as the fire spread.

Flames rip through the roof of the building that workmen were supposed to be repairing

Flames rip through the roof of the building that workmen were supposed to be repairing

 

The damaged house is cordoned off

Heather, of Westerleigh, South Glos., said she has “lost everything” and will have to be rehomed.

She said: ”When I got back and saw what was happening I ran down the street screaming.

“By the time I got to my house there was nothing left. I’ve lost everything. I’m still in shock about what’s happened.”

Heather has lived at Number 4, Mill Crescent, for 19 years and shares the house with son Louis, 18, and partner Chris Harding.

She complained to the Merlin Housing Society about a leaky guttering and workers were sent round to investigate and make repairs.

Neighbours saw them start work but say within minutes the roof felt was ablaze and the fire quickly spread to two adjoining three-bedroom houses.

Heather went shopping when the builders arrived last Friday but later received a frantic call from next door neighbour Belinda Standbridge, who lives at number 2.

Mum-of-four Belinda, whose home was also damaged badly by the fire, said: ”I was in bed asleep for 20 minutes once the fire started.

”The smoke alarms didn’t go off. The fire brigade said the batteries were low and they were also faulty.

“Luckily my neighbour saw what was happening, found my daughter and she woke me up just in time.

”Our loft has been destroyed and I’ve lost a lot of family possessions. The rest of the house is badly smoke-damaged.”

Heather’s home is gutted and neighbour Belinda’s house also suffered smoke and structural damage.

A third house – number 6 – is owned by an elderly woman who lives there with her son was left guttable and uninhabitable.

It is unlikely the £182,000 properties will be repairable as the fire has compromised the structural integrity of the building.

None of the residents had contents’ insurance but they will be able to claim for their losses through the contractor’s insurance.

Heather has also accused the housing association of being slow to act and failing to visit them over the weekend.

Avon Fire and Rescue spokesman Darren Bane said: “We’re satisfied that this is an accidental ignition, started by builders working on the roof.”

A spokesman for Merlin Housing said it is now investigating whether the subcontractors were following the correct health and safety procedures.

She said: “Our understanding is that a sub-contractor of ours was carrying out repairs to the guttering of 4 Mill Crescent when the fire started and spread to Number 6.

”We have launched a full investigation to determine whether the correct procedures were being followed.

“We have been working with the residents from numbers 4 and 6 Mill Crescent to help them in the aftermath of the fire.

”Staff visited and spoke with them on Friday afternoon, when we offered to pay for them to stay in a hotel for the weekend.

”We were in contact with them again on Monday and Tuesday this week to help find them suitable alternative accommodation that meets their needs and some short-term compensation to allow them to buy food and clothes.

“All of our properties are fitted with smoke detectors, but we ask residents to check them every month to make sure they are working properly. We fitted new, mains-wired, battery backed-up.”

 

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