Landlord orders gas probe after gran is told her fire is ‘death trap’

Jill Smith of Larchbank Street, Galashiels beside the potentially killer gas fire which was giving off carbon monoxide fumes.
Jill Smith of Larchbank Street, Galashiels beside the potentially killer gas fire which was giving off carbon monoxide fumes.

THE region’s largest social landlord has launched a review of all its gas installation records and apologised to a tenant who was told at the weekend that her fire was “a death trap”.

The Scottish Borders Housing Association (SBHA) has promised a full investigation into the case of 51-year-old grandmother Jill Smith who contacted TheSouthern on Monday.

She described how, last winter, she became concerned about the performance of the gas fire in the living room of her SBHA home in Larchbank Street, Galashiels.

“It was making a putt-putt-putting sound and it had never been serviced since it was fitted three years ago by SBHA when I took up the tenancy.

“I was told a firm called Saltire would write to me when they were coming to service the fire and install a carbon monoxide detector, but this never happened. I called several times after that because the noise was getting worse and I was given the same story.”

Last Thursday, Ms Smith became so concerned with the noise from the fire – a coal-effect Radiant – that she called SBHA demanding a service and was transferred to Saltire, which has the contract to service and maintain all SBHA’s gas central heating systems and appliances.

“I was stunned when Saltire told me they had no record of my house having any gas appliances whatsover, but they agreed to come to service the fire on Friday, December 2,” recalled Ms Smith, who works as a domestic at the Borders General Hospital.

On Saturday, a workman from Scottish Gas knocked at Ms Smith’s door and requested that she turn off her gas for the duration of a job at a neighbouring property. When he returned to reconnect her, Ms Smith mentioned her concerns about the fire and switched it on.

“The man was astonished at what he saw and said I was lucky to be alive. He said the fire was a ‘death trap’. He pointed out the black build-up of carbon and said the fact the flame was blue and there was a putt-putting noise meant the applicance was extremely dangerous.

“At that moment, the penny dropped because I have suffered more than my fair share of health problems in recent months. About a fortnight earlier, I got home from a 12-hour shift and fell asleep in front of the fire. When I awoke I had a terrible headache, felt dizzy and was violently sick.

“About a month before that my six-year-old grandson Taylan, who is normally a bundle of energy, also fell asleep in front of the fire and woke up vomiting and was off school for a week.

“Given what the Scottish Gas man told me on Saturday, I think we have both had a lucky escape. I just hope there is no long-term health damage.

“What irks me is I made a number of requests about the fire and only last week was I told there was no record of there being any gas appliance in my home. It makes you wonder how many other tenants are in the same boat and at similar risk. You would have thought any complaint about gas would have been treated as an emergency.

“All that has happened since is that on Monday night, someone from Saltire dropped off two fan heaters, but still said no-one would come to the house until December 2.”

Alan Vass, director of technical services with SBHA. told us: “SBHA has apologised to Ms Smith following the omission of her gas fire from the annual service and has assured her that a full investigation is under way to identify the circumstances surrounding this case.”

An SBHA spokesperson added: “The association is confident this is an isolated case. However, a full review of gas installation records is being carried out to reassure our tenants and to ensure that all SBHA homes with gas appliances have had an annual safety check in line with current legislation.

“Any tenants who are concerned about the safety of gas appliances in their home can contact SBHA’s technical services department on 01750 724444.”