Updated: Monday, 6th July 2020 @ 6:52pm

Have we learned nothing? MM's eyewitness account of Parkway Gate blaze

Have we learned nothing? MM's eyewitness account of Parkway Gate blaze

| By Jacob Bentley-York

Last Monday night at roughly 10:30pm, a small blaze broke out at the Unite Students Parkway Gate accommodation complex.

Students ran away frightened and scared at the prospect of a full scale blaze that could have endangered all of the people living there.

MM’s Jacob Bentley-York, who lives in the block involved, wrote a first-hand account of the contentious issues on the night.

At roughly 11:00pm, only by chance, I went to the kitchen to get some water just before I began to wind down to go to bed.

For what is normally quite a bustling block, the floor seemed eerily quiet and that was an odd sign.

The floor was relatively smoky and I initially thought that other residents had been smoking together in the corridor but, unbeknown to me, this was a consequence of a blazing fire roughly five floors below me. 

It was only when I returned from the kitchen, did I notice a hint of an alarm sound in the distance. The walls in the building were thick enough for this sound to be unheard from my room.

Looking down from the kitchen, overlooking the street, I saw a flock of people gathered outside looking directly up at my building.

The area was taped off and a fire engine was placed just outside. As you may have guessed, I went into a little bit of a panic mode considering I genuinely thought my whole building was on fire from the bottom up.

Wearing nothing more than a pair of boxers, I quickly rushed to my room, threw some clothes on and packed a bag of essentials fearing the worst. I legged it down the stairs only to be met by more prevalent smoke and an even stronger sound of fire alarms in the distance. 

As I came out the front door, I was met by a jeering contingent of fellow students who had witnessed the blaze at the peak of its powers 45 minutes earlier.

I looked to my right and saw a completely burnt out storage room occupied by numerous firefighters. The embers were still hot and it was clear that the blaze could have been a lot worse had the emergency services not dealt with it so effectively. 

I had exited the building at around 11:15pm despite the fire starting over 35 minutes before.

Ever since, I have been genuinely concerned by the security of my building having witnessed first-hand the failure of the fire alarms to work when a real fire set off. 

After returning to my room and exchanging stories with my flatmates, it became clear that the fire alarm had not worked for anyone in the first block with one flatmate managing to sleep through the whole incident.

If recent events are anything to go by, then concerns must be raised over the inadequacy of the fire alarm devices.

The Grenfell Tower incident surely showed us what damage can be done when the necessary checks are not carried out on high rise buildings and I hope this incident will be a warning to the company that houses over 700 people in this complex alone.  

After speaking to a BBC reporter about the incident the day after, it is very clear that this story has gained traction given recent events.

Since last Monday alarms have been tested daily but there is a general feeling that this wouldn’t have been the case had the incident not occurred in the evening.

Following on since the event, I have been visited from both the maintenance team and the fire service to whom I have voiced my concerns on the issue and hopefully this event will put the right precautions into action for the future.

Image courtesy of Chris Meredith via Twitter, with thanks.