Residents forced to leave homes after fire risk

Joseph Rank House in Harlow with cars parked outside
Residents from Joseph Rank House in Harlow, Essex, were served a prohibition notice on Thursday evening [BBC]

Residents were given less than 24-hours notice to leave their homes after a fire service issued a prohibition notice because of "a threat to life related to fire safety."

On Thursday, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service served the notice on Places for People, who own Joseph Rank House in Harlow, Essex, with residents being told they must leave their homes by 09:00 BST on Friday.

44 flats were affected and resident Sam Elmasry, 41, said they were given 12-hours notice and "eight hours to evacuate".

Service area manager Dan Partridge said: “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service will only ever serve a prohibition notice when it is absolutely necessary."

Sam Elmasry has a beard and wearing a red top
Sam Elmasry, 41 said he feels worried about where he and his family will stay [BBC]

He added: "We never want people to lose their homes, but our responsibility is to keep people safe and protect them from the risk of fire."

Mr Elmasry was worried about where he and his family will stay.

"Are they going to provide another place for us to stay in or are they going to keep us homeless?" he said.

A spokesperson for the fire service said residents affected are being supported by Places for People, Harlow Council, and other agencies working in partnership, including Essex County Council, Essex Police and health partners.

Vera Pinto is smiling and wearing a green dress
Vera Pinto said being told to move has not fully sunk in yet and she felt a bit shocked [BBC]

Another resident Vera Pinto, 36, said: "It is a shock.

"As the day progresses it is sinking in - by tonight I am not going to be in my home to sleep - I am going to a hotel.

"I don't know what is going to happen at the end of the next three weeks so it's a big anxiety to deal with."

James Holloway, 36, said he has lived in the building for the past six years and has had to lose a day's pay in order to move out of his flat.

He said: "I've had to take the day off work today.

"We're going into a hotel over the weekend and hopefully we'll be moving to an Airbnb for the next couple of weeks."

Tim Weightman, chief investment officer at Places for People, said: "We have known for 18 months that there have been fire concerns with the building.

"We have been working with fire rescue service and the council to rehouse everybody who lives in the building."

He added: "We have achieved two thirds so far, the original plan was for us to do that over two years.

"What has happened is that the fire rescue services has taken a different view with fire safety and we completely respect their views."

Mr Weightman said they have planned to rehouse all of their customers who have been moved as fast as they can.

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