Hundreds living in ‘fire risk’ homes in Northamptonshire

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Hundreds of people in Northamptonshire are working in businesses or living in properties which have been designated as a fire risk, new figures have shown.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed that, of 1,078 fire safety audits of non-domestic premises carried out by Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue in the 12 months to March 2012, 539 were found to be “unsatisfactory”.

The fire service also served 39 enforcement notices and 19 prohibition notices during the same period.

Baz Fox, community protection manager for Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service, said the vast majority of the unsatisfactory audits were in so-called Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs), rented by more than two people and therefore designated as a business.

Mr Fox said the main reason for the failed inspections was due to the properties, which were often rented by some of the most vulnerable members of society such as students, low income families and immigrants, not having a fire alarm system or fire doors installed.

He said: “Quite a lot of the owners of these HMOs know what they have to do but are quite reluctant to install fire alarm systems and fire doors because of the cost.

“We are now trying to prosecute as many of these people as we can for non-compliance as a lot of them are making fortunes on these properties and there is no excuse for not complying with the fire safety regulations.”

Brian Gregory, managing director of Safety Management (UK), based in Northampton, said business owners and managers could often feel that all they needed to do was to have fire extinguishers in place and a fire detection system in their building and they would be covered.

He said: “Small businesses are feeling the pressure of the recession and they are looking to save money where they can, but putting fire safety to the bottom of their priorities is a false economy.”