Kildare County Council refuses to publish Kildare fire report

Kildare County Council has refused to publish a report highlighting major fire concerns in a housing estate where six homes were destroyed by fire in late March.

The report raises concerns about party walls in the timber frame houses, and other serious construction flaws which, in the event of a fire, could result in a rapid spread of flames between homes. At a meeting on Wednesday, council officials refused to furnish councillors with copies of the report, but did hand over copies to representatives of the residents on the estate.

The residents were told it was up to them if they wished to make the report public. The meeting with council officials was described as “highly emotional” with one of the residents reportedly breaking down in tears when the extent of the possible implications became known.

Among the serious deficiencies uncovered in the report is the unsuitability of material used in the party walls — the walls separating attached houses — and the fact that party walls were not built all the way to the underside of the roof. Both issues are regarded as major factors in fire safety design.

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An official read out the report at the meeting, and then handed over copies. Residents were told that it was their own responsibility to have their homes surveyed and to undertake any remedial action that may be required. The extent of the deficiencies in the 10 unoccupied houses surveyed for the council report suggested that remedial action would require residents to leave their homes while work is being carried out.

The fire in the Millford Manor estate on March 31 resulted in a terrace of six houses being almost fully destroyed within 20 minutes. Typically, fire safety design provides for a one-hour delay in fire spreading between each house. The extent of the fire raised concerns about the possibility of widespread problems with the houses’ construction.

The houses were built in 2006 by Barrack Construction, which has since gone into liquidation. They were built using timber frame construction, which requires a high degree of specification. They were built at a time when the level of inspection in house building was at a minimal.

The council officials stressed that the major deficiencies uncovered in the report did not necessarily apply to all of the 90 houses in the estate.

Independent councillor Willie Crowley said that the purpose of the meeting had been to allay fears and identify a path of redress for the residents. “Instead we now have a situation where uncertainly still prevails and a situation which required a sharp decisive response has now been allowed to fester.”

A statement issued by Kildare County Council yesterday confirmed that deficiencies were discovered, but said it does not intend to publish the report.

“As the report only refers to the units inspected, it cannot and should not, be used as a basis for conjecturing that other homes in Millfield are deficient in some way. The only method for a homeowner to determine if there are deficiencies in their home is to have an inspection carried out by a qualified professional.”

A spokeswoman for the residents said they would meet as a group before deciding how to proceed. Questions may be asked about how the problems over fire safety managed to go undetected for so long, and why the original construction was not as per design, particularly in terms of inspections for fire safety.

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