Sheltered housing blaze injures pensioner

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A man of 80 was treated in hospital overnight for smoke inhalation after a chip-pan fire at a Hawick sheltered housing complex on Monday afternoon.

An 87-year-old man was also taken to hospital for treatment but was later released, A third man, aged 70, was treated at the scene by paramedics.

Firefighters from Hawick, Selkirk and Galashiels responded to an automatic fire alarm call to Douglas Haig Court, in the town’s Linden Crescent, shortly before 1pm, and on arrival found a fire in the kitchen of a ground floor flat in the two-storey complex, which contains 33 flats.

Three appliances, an incident support unit, and 15 firefighters were involved at the scene.

A small number of residents had to be evacuated from their homes and had to wait about three hours before being allowed to return, because of the large amount of smoke.

Jason MacGilp, chief executive of Cairn Housing Association, which runs the sheltered housing complex, said on Tuesday: “Two residents received hospital treatment and the fire and rescue service attended very promptly, which we thank them for.”

Mr MacGilp praised the fire service’s “excellent response” and said that Cairn Housing Association’s own fire procedures worked well.

He singled out housing support manager Christine Hope and colleague Ruth Hutton for their efforts.

“The alarms went off and Christine responded and went to the door of the flat and ushered the resident out of the flat and out of the building.

“She was very courageous and did a great job,” said Mr MacGilp.

He added that the fire had “gutted” the flat’s kitchen and caused “significant damage” to the sitting room.

Mr MacGilp said that Cairn Housing Association was working alongside hospital staff and the Scottish Borders Council social work department to attend to the needs of the flat’s resident.

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service had been scheduled to give a regular fire advice talk to residents of Douglas Haig Court on Wednesday, but after the fire, this was brought forward to Tuesday.

Mr MacGilp, who visited the Hawick housing complex on Tuesday morning, said that the session was very well attended.

He added that while residents were concerned about the condition of the man in hospital, the mood was good and residents were happy with the response from staff and the fire service.

However a resident told TheSouthern that there was some continuing concern about the lack of help for residents in general, after council cuts to housing support in April 2011, which meant that one warden was to be made redundant.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said that the two staff had agreed to job-share to avoid the redundancy, but added that they were no longer able to care for residents as they had before, when the wardens would call single residents each morning to check on them and also help any who were feeling unwell.

He said: “There is no longer someone to do the caring duties so there are more and more carers having to come in and do the work the wardens provided. I can’t see how that is saving money.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman responded: “Following changes in funding arrangements last year, Scottish Borders Council’s social work department offered an assessment of need to all tenants to determine any additional support or assistance that might be required. All tenants were also offered contact through the Bordercare service.

“If any tenant believes their needs have changed and they would benefit from a further assessment. they should contact their social worker or the social work duty hub on 0300 100 1800, option 4.”

He added: “We are confident that Cairn Housing Association runs a well-managed facility in Douglas Haig Court and this includes a regular onsite staff presence.

“It continues to be a thriving and successful older people’s housing complex and high praise is due to the way this week’s situation was dealt with.”

After the fire, Lothian and Borders Fire Service has once again warned about the dangers of chip pans.

A spokeswoman said: “Chip pan fires are one of the most common call-outs we have.

“It’s all too easy for a chip pan to catch light and this can quickly fill a room with smoke, putting people at real risk of smoke inhalation and more serious injury.

“Fortunately, in this case fire crews were quickly on the scene and able to extinguish the fire and ensure those affected got prompt medical attention.

“We would advise people to ditch their chip pans and reduce their risk of this type of fire. An electric deep-fat fryer with an automatic cut-out is a much safer option,” she added.