Wigan high-rise tenants reassured after fire chief's safety warning

The head of a Wigan high-rise tenants’ group insist they are not at risk of large-scale fires, following fire chiefs’ warnings for them to take precautions.

Phil Harris, chairman of the town’s High-Rise Association, wants to quell any suggestion that Wigan’s blocks of flats could suffer a blaze similar to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Phil Harris, chairman of the Hi-rise committee

Phil Harris, chairman of the Hi-rise committee

Related: Wigan high-rise fire risk alert

His comments came in the wake of firefighters’ pleas to residents across Greater Manchester to take precautions to stop large fires, as post-Grenfell evaluation of high-rises continues.

But Mr Harris believed the warnings, and the council’s mooted plans to install sprinkler systems, were a knee-jerk reaction that could cause unnecessary concern.

“This is not what people want, and it’s a bad idea, but they are ignoring the residents,” he said.

“There are just so many things relating to these flats that they are not looking at. It’s almost as thought they must be seen to be doing something, and it’s happening across all of Manchester.”

He added: “They say that if it saves one life, then it will be worth it.

“But say we get a fire on the ninth floor, the sprinklers kick in, they leak through to the eighth and seventh floors. That could short circuit something and start another fire.

“We’ve also had several chip fires in these buildings, yet they still want sprinklers - we know if you put water on a chip pan fire it will explode!”

He added: “Their (authorities) sole worry is that they will be held accountable. They’ve never taken any notice of anything like this across the country until now.”

Some residents have also told Mr Harris they would consider moving out if the sprinklers were installed, he said.

Tony Hunter, Assistant Chief Fire Office, said: “Living in a high-rise block doesn’t mean you are at any more risk from fire in your home, but it does mean that you need to consider your own fire safety and how a fire in your home could impact on other residents in your block.

"Now the new year is well underway, this is a good time for residents to declutter the doorways and hallways inside your flat, check smoke alarms and make sure electrical items are in good working order. Residents can also request a free Safe and Well visit.”