EAST Devon District Council is investing time and money in ensuring that tenants who live in blocks of flats owned by the council have maximum protection in the event of a fire.

The council is also getting tough on practices that could block escape routes or fuel fires in public areas.

EDDC has embarked on a significant programme of improvements to many of its 200 apartment buildings, depending on need.

These range from new emergency lighting, safety doors to extend the time before fire permeates through living accommodation, and stricter enforcement of regulations for flat dwellers to follow.

These include a ban on mobility scooters in lifts and stairways, provision where possible of external shelters so that pushchairs and recycling materials can be stored outside and not in hallways or stairwells, and an insistence on removal of all combustible materials from these areas.

Loss of life The move comes in response to Fire Risk Assessments carried out on advice from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service in a bid to reduce loss of life from blazes where large numbers of people live in one building.

Following a number of fatal blazes in UK flats and apartment blocks, the Fire Service nationally has looked at action that could be taken to protect people from a fire tragedy.

Locally, the Fire and Rescue Service have tightened up enforcement of regulations and are insisting that councils and other landlords review their emergency procedures and safety measures.

For the safety of its tenants, EDDC has embarked on a programme of works at some flats, aimed at improving protection.

The council will also be more vigilant in ensuring that fire escape routes and public areas are free of any obstructions and combustible materials. And it has tightened up an existing ban on mobility scooters in lifts.

Escaping Councillor Jill Elson, EDDC’s Cabinet Member for Sustainable Homes and Communities, said: “During the past several months we have been talking to tenants and explaining the importance of ensuring that people have the best possible chance of escaping from a blaze in a block of flats. We have also briefed many of our tenants and have delivered letters to a number of flats explaining what we are doing and why.

“Not only does the council want to be a responsible landlord and meet its moral duty of care to tenants but we would be open to prosecution if we did not comply with Fire Service instructions. There can be no compromise when people’s lives are at stake”.