Resident of blazing block of flats says fire started in his flat by charging e-bike

Liiban Shakat said his friend was hospitalised with smoke inhalation after his e-bike allegedly caused a flat fire that forced 30 people to evacuate.

21 June 2022

A resident of a high-rise block of flats has said a blaze that forced dozens of people to evacuate began after an e-bike being charged in his home caught fire.

Liiban Shakat described thinking he was “going to die” after his friend, whom he named as Abid Naser Mohamed, woke him up and led him to the guest bedroom, which was engulfed in flames.

Mr Mohamed was rushed to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation after emergency services including 60 firefighters and two ambulances raced to the scene shortly after 9am, Mr Shakat said.

The resident told how his friend had started charging an e-bike battery in the flat when it began smoking in the socket.

Tower block fire
Scorch marks can be seen on the 12th floor of a tower block at Stebbing House on Queensdale Crescent, Shepherd’s Bush (Victoria Jones/PA)

When he unplugged it, the surroundings were set alight, according to Mr Shakat.

Speaking to reporters outside the building and still wearing his macawis – a traditional Somali style of pyjamas – he said: “(My friend) was in the room that caught on fire. He was in the bed. His mouth was black because he inhaled so much smoke.”

The 38-year-old was half-awake when he was confronted with the blaze, and rushed to pour a bucket of water over the burning debris.

But this ended up exacerbating the fire, and he ran to try and escape the building and alert his neighbours by knocking on nearby doors on the 12th floor.

“Something was coming from the bike, smoke, so he unplugged it. Now the debris, the plastic, the fire caught the whole place, the windows the bed,” Mr Shakat said, speaking through a translator.

Tower block fire
Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, outside Stebbing House, after a fire broke out on the 12th floor (Victoria Jones/PA)

The resident, who has lived more than 20 years in the block of flats at Stebbing House in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, claimed that no fire alarm had sounded and no water sprinklers had been activated, despite the inferno.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which is understood to manage the building, has been contacted for comment.

But Jonathan Stone, building safety manager at the council, said fire safety measures taken by the local authorities had “prevented another Grenfell”.

Tower block fire
Councillor Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, outside Stebbing House (Victoria Jones/PA)

Both Mr Stone and Labour council leader Stephen Cowan, who were on the scene in the aftermath, told the PA news agency they had been advised that the fire alarms had gone off as expected.

The council has a system called Fire Safety Plus, they said, which has taken steps including installing fire safety doors to help residents stay protected.

The fire was brought under control by around 10.55am, which Mr Cowan said was partly made possible by the lack of flammable product on the building – a crucial difference from the Grenfell Tower.

He told the PA news agency that residents may understandably be “in shock” after the ordeal and that reports of fire alarms failing to sound were understood to be inaccurate.

Labour MP for Hammersmith Andy Slaughter told PA at the scene that work he understood the fire would be “of great concern” and said a full report would be completed to formally establish the cause.

“Any fire, particularly in high rise buildings, is going to be of great concern to residents and they will need reassurance that all safety measures are in place,” he said.

At least 30 residents fled the building as plumes of black smoke were filmed billowing out of windows on the 12t floor on Tuesday morning.

Mr Shakat recalled watching the Grenfell Tower blaze from the same flat that caught fire on Tuesday, saying the blaze brought memories of the tragedy back.

He said: “I remember seeing it. We were playing Playstation.”

He added: “I thought I was going to die today.”

Detailing how the events of the morning unfolded, he said: “He (Mr Mohamed) forces me to wake up. I follow him. I went into the room and the whole room is on fire. I ran to the sink, I got a bucket of water and I tried to discourage the fire and then it got worse.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

London Ambulance Service said two ambulances and a Hazardous Area Response Team attended, with one person taken to hospital and two assessed at the scene.

In a statement from the scene, station commander David Bracewell said: “Firefighters dealt with a fire on the 12th floor of a tower block in W11. Three people from the affected flat left before the brigade arrived. A number of other residents evacuated the building.

“Firefighters led six residents to safety via an internal staircase. Further residents who were not affected by fire, heat or smoke were advised to remain in their flats.

“In the early stages we used new technology called 9Eye that enabled a caller to send live stream videos of the incident straight into the brigade’s 999 call centre.

“We’ve also used a 32m turntable ladder to put water on the outside of the building.”

In a statement on Twitter, the ambulance service said: “London Ambulance Service is responding to a fire in Queensdale Crescent, W11, alongside colleagues from the London Fire Brigade.

“We have dispatched multiple resources to the scene and are treating a number of patients.”

The building is less than a mile away from Grenfell Tower where 72 people died following a blaze in 2017.

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