Fire in Derwent exposes safety fears

Student safety has been questioned following the discovery that Derwent College fire equipment is three years out of date. The discovery came after a fire broke out in C Block last week.

Despite the requirement by law that university fire safety equipment must be serviced annually, it has been revealed that two extinguishers in C-Block have not been checked since September 2003. Another was found in Derwent F block that has not been checked since July 2004.

The lapse in the maintenance of safety equipment was revealed following a fire that took place in C-Block kitchen on the night of the 15th February. The Fire Department was called out to tackle the blaze, but the C-Block kitchen has suffered extensive smoke damage and will be out of use until further notice.

Ahmed Siddiqi, resident of Derwent C-Block who was in the building at the time of the fire said; “I went into the kitchen and saw the fire so I immediately called the porters. I didn’t try and tackle it, I know our fire extinguisher hasn’t been checked in a long time so it wouldn’t be the best idea!”

Derwent resident Ashley Scanlan expressed concern about the implications of faulty safety equipment, saying “We get told all the time by the University about the importance of keeping fire doors closed and watching out for our cooking but if push came to shove and the extinguishers didn’t work then that’s it for us really!”

When contacted, Lynne Jarret of the University’s Health and Safety Directorate said she was not aware that safety equipment was out of date but that “the matter will be investigated.” She also stressed that “Over the coming months [the university] will be taking a full review alongside the SU to address fire safety.”

Will Wright, another Derwent C Block resident, believes that “basic fire training should be given to every student”, to prepare them for tackling blazes such as that which occurred in their kitchen last week.

Phil Chilton, who is a watch manager at York Fire Safety, said that “Fire safety equipment should be checked and maintained annually by a competent firm and this should be recorded.”

As well as the statutory annual inspection, the Chief Fire Officers’ Association and Local Government Association recommend “routine inspection” of fire extinguishers either quarterly or, preferably, monthly.

A warning to all students

York fire station has spoken out about student safety precautions following a spate of recent fires in halls.

Station officer Carl Vinand of York Fire Station said; “What is needed is for students to take charge. All fires we are called out for happen as a result of stupidity.”
Mr Vivand also raised concern over the dangerous mix of alcohol and fire safety. “Most fires occur after closing time and we do not want people trying to tackle them after they have had a drink”.

The blaze in a Derwent C block kitchen started after oil heating in a wok caught fire. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire is soon to be launched.
Many fires are caused in a similar way to that in Derwent, mostly involving chip pans. “Just use oven chips” was the final message from Mr. Vinand.

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