Peabody residents demand better support in wake of ‘traumatising’ Dalston Lane fire

Fire damage on the roof of the building. Photograph: London Fire Brigade

Residents of a block of flats devastated by a massive fire say they have been “traumatised” by the fallout from the blaze – with some left homeless.

The blaze on Dalston Lane last Wednesday took 15 fire engines and 100 firefighters two hours to get under control.

Tracy Packer is the managing director for the north-east London branch of Peabody, the housing association that manages the building.

She said in a statement on Friday: “We found alternative accommodation for about 25 residents and others stayed with family and friends.”

Despite these efforts, one person living nearby saw people “crying outside because they have nowhere to go – they haven’t been rehomed”.

Elizabeth has lived in the building with her family of four for over 25 years, and they were lucky enough to be given alternative accommodation.

She recalled the moment when the fire ripped through the roof of the building, damaging two maisonette flats on the second and third floors.

“I was at home cooking dinner, and someone banged on the door saying ‘Get out, get out, the roof’s on fire, the place is going to blow’.”

She spoke of the emotional toll that it has taken on her children, adding: “We’re grateful to get out, but this is deeply traumatising.”

The family was put up in a hotel 3.5 miles away in Manor House.

The extent of the damage to the roof could be seen from a nearby building. Photograph: Jade DRR

Elizabeth said: “The hotels are like homeless person hotels: four beds in one room. There’s nowhere to wash clothes, so I’ve come back here to Primark to buy underwear.”

On the uncertainty of the days ahead, she added: “Yesterday lunchtime, we were told we were going to another hotel. I don’t know when we’re going to be allowed back in, there is no plan beyond 14 June.”

Peabody is supporting emergency services with their investigation into the cause of the fire.

The housing association is asking residents not to speculate in daily emails to them, but residents and local groups are demanding accountability for the level of damage caused to their homes.

One resident, videoing the scene of the blaze on Wednesday, said: “This is not a normal fire.”

Elizabeth also spoke of the extent of the damage to the property.

She was given permission by firefighters to rescue her pet cat, who was trapped.

She said: “We were given two minutes to grab what we could. My bed was like a swimming pool – four inches of water on the floor.

“It was unbelievable. It was as if it was a storm in your own house.”

Elizabeth said that while Peabody is sending daily emails, not all residents are on the list and she often has to share the updates with them herself.

Sometimes the emails give no information, she said, adding: “They say they’re offering support but not actually delivering it.”

A notice on the entrance of the building, taken on Saturday 8 June. Photograph: Kris Jalowiecki

Over the weekend, a notice was displayed on the front door to the building offering information and support to affected residents, however the telephone number was related to an emergency repairs team.

When the Citizen called the number to enquire about the support available to residents, it was told “that’s the day team’s job”, and that the team was “not available because it was Sunday”.

With lives turned upside down by the fire, residents like Elizabeth want answers.

As she puts it: “We’ve got out with our lives and we’re grateful, but [Peabody] needs to look at doing a bit more.”

Peabody is offering residents support at the Pembury Community Centre during the week.

Those affected can also contact the Red Cross on 0808 196 3651 between 10am and 5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and between 10am and 8pm on Wednesdays.