Student flats fire: 220 left homeless

Jake Dannatt reports on the devastating fire which tore through a block of student accommodation at Bolton University on Friday 15 November.

Jake Dannatt
16th November 2019
David Dixon on Geograph
A fire on Friday evening has left 220 students at the University of Bolton homeless and two injured.

At around 20:30 the fire was reported at The Cube student flats. 200 firefighters tackled the blaze and evacuated all residents safely, with two treated for ‘minor injuries’.

The University has arranged temporary accommodation and hotel rooms for those affected and a donation page has been set up.

Witnesses said that several false alarms have occurred recently, so they were unsure if this was a real fire. One student claimed: “If it had gone up in the middle of the night everyone would have slept through the alarm. We have slept through them before”. This is a worrying sign that perhaps efficient safety drills were not taking place at the accommodation.

The fire spread rapidly according to witnesses. Ace Love told PA News that the wind was “blowing so hard” it “kept getting more intense”. Several videos on social media show large pieces of debris falling from flats, casting a horrifying resemblance to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

In response, the community came together to help the victims. Donations of food, toiletries, clothing and other essentials were collected. In addition, fans attending Bolton v. MK Dons on Saturday contributed supplies too. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Bolton on Saturday to see the efforts going into aiding the students.

It was confirmed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham that cladding was present in the building, but not the same type found in Grenfell. However, it has raised the question as to why flammable cladding still exists in buildings.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was quick to criticise the government’s report into cladding on Twitter while praising the fire crews involved: “If reports are correct and flammable cladding contributed to the fire, it shows the government's shameful inaction since Grenfell.”

It increases concerns about other cladding buildings across the UK, with Salford Mayor Paul Dennett requesting extra funding from the Government to remove flammable cladding from buildings. He called the situation an ‘industrial crisis’.

An investigation has been launched to understand the causes of the fire and the extent cladding contributed to the incident.

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