‘Back-firing bike’ led to blaze which damaged Buckingham flats

The scene following the fire at flats in Whitehead Way, Buckingham
The scene following the fire at flats in Whitehead Way, Buckingham

Residents were taken to hospital with burn injuries after fire damaged a block of flats in Buckingham following a petrol tank explosion ‘caused by a back-firing’ bike.

The fire in Whitehead Way, at around 4pm on Tuesday, caused damage to the outside of the flats, which are owned by Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, and also involved a van, car and three motorbikes.

The scene following a fire at flats in Whitehead Way, Buckingham

The scene following a fire at flats in Whitehead Way, Buckingham

Firefighters rescued a woman from a second-floor flat. She was not injured – but another woman suffering from shock and two men suffering from burns were taken to hospital.

Damage to the building includes the plastic guttering and downpipes which have melted, damage to the entrance door and canopy, and cracks and heat damage to the windows.

Jayson Quayle, Buckingham town councillor for the Highlands and Watchcroft ward said it is believed the blaze was caused by a bike backfiring which spread to a petrol tank which then exploded.

“The fire started in front of the only fire escape in the flats.

“One of the residents is an amputee and is wheelchair-bound. It can’t be right that he is expected to barricade himself behind the door and wait to be rescued.

“Something must be done about this.”

He said he was also concerned by reports that fire alarms within the flats did not go off, and that fire extinguishers are not installed. However, the trust has stood by its safety procedures and the way its staff dealt with the incident.

Buckingham district councillor Robin Stuchbury has now held a meeting with Dean Gill, director of property and development at the trust, regarding the fire.

In a written response to Mr Stuchbury, Mr Gill said the trust ‘responded quickly to the incident with a number of staff attending to support the residents’.

He added: “Before leaving the location we ensured all the affected residents were able to either return to their home or had suitable arrangements in place for that evening, and reassured them of what we would do further support them and repair the damage. We worked closely with the fire service to assess the damage and ensure safety for the residents.”

He said that as the fire, or any smoke, did not enter the flats, the fire alarms within individual properties correctly did not go off, but the ‘the smoke detector in the stairwell area operated as expected and the smoke vent was fully open as designed’.

He went on: “Our staff who attended made the area safe using temporary fencing around the fire damaged vehicles. They also made temporary repairs to the glass so that there is no danger of this falling onto people and that the individual properties are secure. We turned off the gas supply to three flats as we were concerned there may be damage to the boiler flues to these flats. The residents were informed and happy with the actions taken.

“We have ordered new parts for the gas boilers and will fit these as soon as they arrive, but hopefully by the end of this week. In the meantime we have spoken with two residents this affects and agreed alternative arrangements for them, and will support this financially. The third property that this affects we have left a note and telephone message to contact us as we understand the tenants are on holiday.”

Mr Gill added that trust does not install fire extinguishers for ‘a number of reasons’, including the risk if they are not used correctly, or are moved or damaged and therefore are not suitable in the event of fire.

“The building meets the current Building Regulations, Part B, which includes for a primary and secondary means of escape. Each flat is constructed in such a way that the flat is protected from a fire externally for a period of time to either allow the fire service to attend or for the occupier to escape.

“This also stops any fire within one flat spreading to other flats. There is fire safety/evacuation information present in the building. Regular Health and Safety inspections are carried out in the building with the latest one carried out on 15 June. Everything was found to be correct and covers such things as emergency lighting tested, fire vent tested, fire doors in good working condition and self closures work.”

Fire crews from Buckingham, Winslow and Great Holm attended the blaze.