East Devon’s Housing service highlights importance of tenants keeping communal hallways clear during festive season and throughout the year

In the run up to Christmas, officers from East Devon District Council’s housing service has been reminding tenants of the need to ensure that  communal areas and fire escapes are kept clear of hazards. This will include Christmas decorations, which in many cases are highly flammable.

The council takes its responsibilities towards its tenants extremely seriously and has invested much time and money to ensure that tenants and leaseholders in blocks of flats have maximum protection. This means that while tenants can decorate their flats in true festive style, the same cannot be allowed in communal hallways if the council is to prevent residents being put at risk.

Only last year, a fire started in a communal area of a block of flats in Honiton, because items were placed in the hallway. Fortunately nobody was injured, but the incident was extremely serious and highlights once again how important it is that tenants keep the hallways clear of clutter in the buildings where they live.

The Honiton fire, which was caused by a mattress being set alight within a communal area, is a chilling reminder of how dangerous it is to store items in communal areas.

In addition to educating tenants on the importance of upholding its clear hallways policy, East Devon is continuing to implement a number of other measures to improve fire safety. These steps include improving bin store facilities and buggy storage areas, updating emergency lighting and upgrading residents’ front doors and communal doors to improve fire retention.

Amy Gilbert-Jeans, Property and Asset Management Manager at East Devon, said:

We were very fortunate that no one lost their life or was injured as a result of the fire that was started in Honiton earlier this year. The fire was entirely preventable, as we have a very clear policy for the communal areas of our blocks of flats. All our tenants have been informed of this policy and have been given instructions to follow, yet on this occasion a resident totally disregarded our advice and dumped a mattress in the hallway, where it was set on fire.

Of course with Christmas approaching we want everyone to enjoy themselves and we appreciate that decorating for the festive season is something our residents like to do, however I know nobody would want this at the cost of creating a dangerous situation that ultimately puts lives at risk.

Councillor Jill Elson, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for sustainable homes and communities, emphasised that while the council did not wish to appear unfestive, it does have to take a zero tolerance approach to items being left within fire escapes or communal areas.

At all times of the year, keeping hallways clear is important, not just to prevent fires, but also to ensure that everyone can escape from a building safely in the event of an emergency. People put all kinds of things in hallways – from mobility scooters and prams to rubbish and tables. All these items can obstruct or can contribute to a fire, which is why we take firm action against anyone storing or dumping anything in a communal area.