Fire at flats in Rowe Court, Reading

Update: 4pm on Monday, 31 January

 

Jim Powell, Area Manager at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “On behalf of everyone at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, I would like to extend my thoughts to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in this tragic incident. I know this is an extremely difficult time for those directly affected and people living nearby the incident scene.

 

“A full fire investigation to determine the cause of the fire is now underway and we will continue to work with partners to resolve this incident as swiftly and as safely as possible.”

 

To read the full press release from Thames Valley Police, please visit their website.

 

Update: 2pm on Thursday, 20 January

Tregear Thomas, Area Manager at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “I would like to thank the local community for their patience while we continue to work on the recovery efforts following this incident, alongside our partners.

“We understand that this has been a difficult time for everyone and our top priority remains to resume the recovery efforts of those within the building as soon as safely possible.

“At this time, the building remains structurally unsafe and parts of the building would have to be removed in a careful and controlled manner in order to recover those within the building without compromising the safety of teams’ onsite. Preparation work for this is underway and, as part of this, we have determined that due to the complexity and the extensive damage to the building, teams will likely have to remain onsite until approximately spring time.

“We understand that those nearby may be experiencing disruption while these essential works continue and so want to say thank you to the local community for their continued patience and cooperation.

“While work at the scene is ongoing, our staff will be visiting properties in the nearby area to offer advice to local residents.

“We recognise that this continues to be a challenging incident for all those affected and would like to reassure residents that we, alongside partners, are working to resume all recovery efforts as swiftly and as safely as possible.”

To read the full press release from Thames Valley Police, please visit their website.

Update: 1pm on Friday, 31 December

Doug Buchanan, Area Manager at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected in this challenging time.

“The damage to the building caused by the fire means that it is now structurally unsafe and, unfortunately, the building will now have to be demolished in a careful and controlled manner, which may take some time.

“The priority still remains to confirm whether those reported missing are within the building and if so, recover them respectfully and with dignity. As the weather continues to change, there is a possibility that the building could collapse further. The scaffolding and exclusion zone around the building will ensure that, should this occur, it will not pose any risk to residents or neighbouring properties. However, in the event of collapse, we would advise that local residents keep their doors and windows closed to prevent any dust from entering their properties.

“We continue to work with local partners in this challenging and complex incident to ensure that we can resolve this as swiftly and as safely as possible.”  

To read the full press release from Thames Valley Police, please visit their website.

Update: 12pm on Wednesday, 22 December

Paul Illman, Area Manager at Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this tragic incident.

“Specialist teams have been assessing the structural damage to the building and their judgment is that we will be unable to safely enter without risking the safety of staff.

“A number of options have been explored to make the building structurally sound in a timely manner. Following an extensive assessment, the building has been confirmed as unsafe at this time, with a high risk of the walls collapsing due to fire damage. Structural scaffolding is being put in place to make the building safe and this is likely to take several weeks.

“On this basis, fire crews will be scaling back the resources on the scene at this time to enable work to take place to secure the structure. As soon as it is possible we will work closely with specialist teams from Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Urban Search and Rescue Team and South Central Ambulance Service to resume the recovery efforts.

“I understand this will be a difficult time for all those affected by this incident and I would like to reassure you that we are working hard with partners to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

To read the full press release from Thames Valley Police, please visit their website.

Update: 5:35pm on Thursday, 16 December

Our crews remain on the scene. Following an extensive search yesterday, during which all rescue opportunities were exhausted and confirmed that sadly, if there was anyone else in the building, we do not expect there to be any further survivors.

The building itself is a block of low-rise flats, comprised of four storeys and is traditionally built from brick and timber, without cladding.

A fire engine, alongside the Aerial Ladder Platform and Incident Command Unit are still in attendance. They will be remaining on scene to assist with extinguishing any hot spots from the fire and we are working with our partners to put in place safe systems of work for the ongoing recovery work.

From the assessment on scene today, it has been established that gaining safe access could take quite some time due to the deterioration in the structure of the building from the fire. Based on this, we expect to remain in attendance over the coming days.

This is an incredibly challenging time and we’d like to reassure those affected by this incident, the families of those impacted and the wider community that we are working incredibly hard, alongside colleagues from the Police.

Separately, the Fire Investigation will be underway once access to the building is confirmed as safe to enter.

We’d like to thank our residents for their continued co-operation, patience and support and further updates will be provided once the building has been confirmed as safe to enter.

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Update: 9:57pm on Wednesday, 15 December

Several of our crews remain on-site near Grovelands Road, Reading.

Update: 4:02pm on Wednesday, 15 December

We would like to correct reports that a firefighter has been injured jumping from a window and is now in hospital following the incident at a low-rise block of flats in Grovelands Road, Reading. This is not true.

No firefighters have jumped from any windows and no firefighters are injured or in hospital following the incident. Our crews remain working on the scene.

Update: 3:00pm on Wednesday, 15 December

A statement from Doug Buchanan, Assistant Chief Fire Officer: 

First and foremost I would like to offer my thoughts and condolences on behalf of the Service and Fire Authority to those that have been affected by the incident.

As with any incident, our priority is always to provide the best possible service we can and our teams have been working incredibly hard since the early hours of this morning and currently remain on the scene. They responded quickly to this fire in a low rise building, comprised of four storeys, arriving within 8 minutes from the time we received the 999 call and were faced with a challenging situation.  

Upon arrival, their priority was to locate casualties inside the building to evacuate them safely and ensure they received prompt treatment alongside our partners from South Central Ambulance Service, while working to extinguish the fire. During the course of this, our firefighters were able to rescue one of the residents from the building using a ladder and our emergency call handlers gave fire survival advice to a resident that led to them safely getting out of the property. Despite their efforts, we know that one person has sadly been pronounced dead at the scene and a number of others remain unaccounted for at this time.

At the height of the fire, there were around 50 firefighters at the scene from stations across Berkshire and Oxfordshire, supported by Officers and specialist equipment, including our Aerial Ladder Platform. Firefighters now remain on the scene and colleagues from the Urban Search and Rescue Team from Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service are supporting.

While this incident is understood to be arson, the source of ignition is yet to be confirmed and a full fire investigation will be underway to determine this, alongside colleagues from Thames Valley Police.

As I mentioned before, firefighters do remain on the scene and are likely to do so for a number of hours, so we would ask for your continued patience while the work of the emergency services continues.

Listen to the statement from Doug Buchanan, Assistant Chief Fire Officer below. This update was provided at 3pm on Wednesday, 15 December.

Update: 1:00pm on Wednesday, 15 December

Crews remain on scene at an incident in a low-rise building in Grovelands Road, Reading. Please continue to avoid the area while emergency services respond to the incident. Thank you for your understanding.

Update: 9:51am on Wednesday, 15 December

At 2:51am on Wednesday, 15 December, we received reports of a fire at a block of flats in Grovelands Road, Reading.

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service crews from Caversham Road, Wokingham Road, Theale, Whitley Wood, Wokingham, Bracknell, Ascot, Crowthorne, Slough, two pumps from Newbury and the Aerial Ladder Platform and Incident Command Unit were sent to the scene, together with seven officers and crews from Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service.

Upon arrival, firefighters found a fire within a four-storey block of flats, affecting all levels. Sadly, one person is believed to have died, and there are a number of others who are as yet unaccounted for.

Please avoid the area while emergency services respond to this incident. Thank you for your understanding.

Update: 7:13am on Wednesday, 15 December

We are still at the scene of a significant incident in the Grovelands Road area of Reading. A number of fire appliances are attending and roads in the area are congested.

3:51am on Wednesday, 15 December

We are in attendance and dealing with an incident in Grovelands Road in Reading. Please avoid the area.