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Community response hailed after fire rips through block of flats in Holborough Lakes, Snodland

PUBLISHED: 14:42 18 September 2017

Snodland fire. Photo: @B33tlebum

Snodland fire. Photo: @B33tlebum

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Fire chiefs said they do not believe there are suspicious circumstances

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze in Snodland. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA WireFirefighters at the scene of the blaze in Snodland. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Snodland’s “overwhelming” community response has been hailed after a fire ripped through a block of flats in Holborough Lakes last weekend.

At its height, more than 100 firefighters were called to the three-storey building which contains 22 flats at Pollyfield Close on Saturday morning.

While nobody was killed in the blaze, dozens of people now find themselves homeless, with many residents claiming everything they own was destroyed in the inferno.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage but it is not believed to be suspicious.

However, the response of the local community has been unanimously praised, after thousands of pounds was raised in a matter of hours online, while many others donated clothes and food, and cafes offered victims hot dinners free of charge.

Snodland town councillor Paul Hickmott told us: “We’re all quite shocked by it. Although there were no fatalities, most people must have got out but they have lost everything.

“Local people have been collecting stuff for them, there’s a collection box in the local Co-op and cafe.

“They still need to identify the cause of the fire but it all has to be repaired which will take a long time so I don’t think they’ll be moving back in a hurry.”

The town’s MP, Tracey Crouch, spent several hours on the site of the blaze on Saturday.

She said: “The response to the incident from the fire brigade was absolutely first rate with at one point over 15 appliances in attendance.

“It appears 22 apartments were affected but everyone got out safe and are accounted for.

“Berkeley Homes, their managing agents RMG and TMBC were on site very early and have ensured all affected residents are being supported.

“I met some residents and most are with family or friends and others have been placed in hotel accommodation.

“The response from the community, individuals and organisations, and volunteer groups like the Red Cross was incredible and people’s donations came in so thick and fast that a request went out for no more.

“The emergency services were being well looked after too with food and refreshments.

“Thank you to all those who have been in touch to offer help and support. Everyone really appreciates it.

“One fireman said ‘you must be really proud of the community’...yes I am but also of him and his colleagues.

“My primary responsibilities will kick in a bit down the road when those affected inevitably find themselves facing challenges from the administrative issues that arise from events like this.

“But in the meantime it was reassuring to see those affected being dealt with quickly by all the relevant organisations and agencies and supported practically and emotionally by the wider community.”

Following a similar blaze at the Tannery in Canterbury back in 2015, and indeed the Grenfell Tower tragedy in west London earlier this summer, there were calls for sprinklers to be installed on site.

Indeed in the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, Canterbury councillors unanimously backed a motion for them to be fitted as part of the redevelopment of the block when they met in July.

However, bosses at Town & Country Housing stood firm and insisted they would not fit the devices, despite efforts to “shame” them into doing so.

When pushed on whether sprinklers should have been installed at the Snodland flats, however, councillors remained coy.

“The way the flats are built and the way it was dealt with shows it comes up to regulations,” Cllr Hickmott said.

“You are not going to stop something burning. I’m not ruling [sprinklers] out totally but we need to see what the cause was first, up to now it appears to meet regulations.”

Fellow councillor Debbie Alford-Smith added: “It’s been overwhelming. In Canterbury it took two years to have things rebuilt and have people permanently rehoused.

“I obviously hope it’s a quicker process but I am well aware it has to go through the correct procedures.

“I just hope in the short terms that these people get the support and help they need, not just physical items but having people to talk to.”

A spokesperson for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire investigation by KFRS following the fire at Holborough Lakes, Snodland at the weekend is ongoing. We expect this to be completed later this week.

“The fire service’s remit is to try to establish the most probable cause of the fire and where it started.

“This will include gaining evidence from any witnesses as well as excavating the fire scene, where this is possible, and there is remaining evidence to gather.

“At this moment within the investigation we do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances.”

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