Saturday 1 October 2016

'I saw those houses burn down - I'm so afraid for my family'

A year after fire destroyed six homes in an estate, worried residents calling for urgent action

Alan O'Keeffe

Published 13/04/2016 | 11:26

Stephen and Agnes Farrell and their son, Daniel (1 week old) in their home Millfield Manor in Newbridge, Kildare. Six houses were destroyed by a fire in the estate. Credit: Damien Eagers
Stephen and Agnes Farrell and their son, Daniel (1 week old) in their home Millfield Manor in Newbridge, Kildare. Six houses were destroyed by a fire in the estate. Credit: Damien Eagers

More than a year after a devastating fire raged through a housing estate, families are angry that no action has been taken to improve fire safety in their homes.

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On March 31 last year, six houses on the Millfield Manor estate in Newbridge, Co Kildare, burned to the ground after flames spread rapidly between them.

There were no proper fire barriers between the houses, and a terrace of two-storey homes was quickly destroyed.

Remarkably, many families living on the estate told the Herald that they believe their homes still have no proper fire barriers.

Kildare County Council and state agencies have failed to give the residents practical or financial assistance in installing life-saving fire-barriers, they said.

"We're very afraid after the fire. The houses all went up in flames so quickly," said Agnes Farrell (33), who lives with her husband Stephen (32) and their son Matthew (4) and one-week-old baby Daniel.

Millfield Manor estate
Millfield Manor estate

Surprising

"It's just not acceptable. It's very surprising that nothing has been done yet," said Mr Farrell, who moved into the rented home with his family three years ago.

He said residents' fire safety concerns had been championed by local councillor Willie Crowley, who later died in a traffic accident.

"No work has been done on my home, despite an inspection showing that a fire barrier is missing," said George Reddy (45), who bought his terraced house off the builders' plans in 2007.

"I'm told it could cost up to €15,000 or €20,000 to get the work done to make it safer.

"People simply can't afford that kind of money. The State should have had procedures in place to prevent homes being sold that did not meet fire safety standards."

Mr Reddy, who lives with his wife and eight-year-old daughter within a few metres of the gutted terrace, wants the Government to provide grants to get the work done.

"I'm constantly worried for the safety of my wife and daughter," he said.

Magdalena Simonicova, 43, Voyteem Simonic, 47, Monica Bozeniakova, 21, and Lukas Simonic, 21, holding Selina Mary Simonicova in their home in the Millfield Manor estate
Magdalena Simonicova, 43, Voyteem Simonic, 47, Monica Bozeniakova, 21, and Lukas Simonic, 21, holding Selina Mary Simonicova in their home in the Millfield Manor estate

Restaurant owner and father-of-three Baris Atasevier (41) said: "No one appears to be taking responsibility for the situation.

"I cannot understand why the council or the Government are not taking some responsibility to help.

"Surely the council has some control over the standard of houses that are built in their area?

"They should have an active checking system for the safety of new homes. I watched those houses burning down last year and it was terrible.

Destroyed

"I bought this house in a terrace of six homes, which means if a fire breaks out in any of the six homes all of them could be destroyed.

"It's completely unacceptable that Kildare County Council is not taking action about this danger."

Marcin Baczeski (37) said his landlord was planning to get a fire barrier installed, but it would be a big job and he and his family would have to move out while the work was being done.

The house next door has since been fitted with a fire barrier that cost the owner more than €12,000.

"I remember the day of the fire. It got going very fast and jumped from house to house. It was terrible to watch," said the father-of-two. Local resident Andrezej Bondyra (29) said he invited his friends to stay with him after their house was destroyed by fire.

He said he was still worried about the safety of his loved ones.

George Kemmy (45), who lives on the estate with his wife Tara and their daughter, said he works as a builder in Dublin and was used to seeing building work being regularly inspected during construction.

He said he could not understand how the Millfield houses were approved.

His own house had not been inspected since the blaze and he did not know if his house had any fire barriers, but he said he and his family were very worried.

"A year has gone by now and still nothing has been done," he said. "It's very scary to think what could happen. My wife worries a lot and goes around every night unplugging everything."

Many of the 79 houses and 129 apartments on the estate are in the private rental sector.

Among local tenants who expressed concerns were Voj-tech Simonic (47) and his wife Magdalena (43).

They have been living in a house in Millfield since 2010 and share it with their son Lukas and his girlfriend, Monika Bozeniakova (20).

"Something should be done. We are very worried," said Mr Simonic.

"It's over a year since the big fire on the estate. It is far too long for nothing to have been done."

Herald

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