Arsonist around again this year

Last year we had a potentially serious incident on Askham Lane when arsonists set fire to a wheat field.

Unfortunately the same thing seems to have happened again this year with the Fire Brigade (NYFR) were called to a similar incident on Saturday. They dealt with it promptly.

Given the extended dry spell that we have had the consequences could have been devastating.

So if anyone has any information, or spots any suspicious behaviour, then please contact the Police (999 if an incident is in progress, 101 if it is to pass on information).

Also on Askham Lane (rural section) there has been more dumping. We have reported it.

Fire and rescue on Foxwood Lane this weekend

Fire damaged field in 2017

St Stephens Road arson incident

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue are reporting that a fire was started deliberately on St Stephens Road this morning.

According to the Service the attack involved  a “wheelie bin on fire against the external doors of a 2 storey block of flats.

Resulted in fire damage to wheelie bin, slight fire damage to doors and light smoke damage to entrance foyer.

The cause is deliberate”

You can follow the Fire Serviceby clicking here  & via Twitter here @NorthYorksFire

York Council progress on fire risk fears

The York Council has published a report updating residents on the progress made in addressing issues revealed by the Grenfell Tower disaster earlier in the year. The Grenfell fire resulted in the deaths of 71 occupants of the high rise housing block.

It is the third in a series of reports. The Council had previously confirmed that there are no comparable high rise housing blocks in the City

In the autumn the Council had been told that 307 fire risk assessments (FRA) were needed in the City. The latest report says that an inspection contract is “currently being finalised with a suitably qualified contractor with a target date (subject to contract) for completion by March 2018”.

A schedule for the outstanding FRA reviews has been produced which prioritises those property types most at risk; i.e. converted houses/flats; sheltered and older persons housing and hostels; and blocks where fire incidents have previously occurred.

A more detailed check of fire spread prevention measures, e.g. between floors or rooms of a building, will be carried out as vacancies occur.

A national review of the effectiveness of building regulations has resulted in an interim report.  The report concentrates on buildings of more than 4 stories in height (of which there are few in York). “Most professional bodies seem to accept that the current regulatory arrangements are not working”.

The national report concludes,

The work of the review to date has found that the current regulatory system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings is not fit for purpose. This applies throughout the life cycle of a building, both during construction and occupation, and is a problem connected both to the culture of the construction industry and the effectiveness of the regulators”.

The York report will be discussed at a meeting taking place on 8th January 2018

Hay bale fire on Askham Lane UPDATED 1500 hrs

It looks like the bales have reignited. Some smoke blowing across the A1237. Fire service in attendance at 1500 hrs today

For the second time this summer arsonists have been accused of setting fire to crops on fields near Askham Lane.

Last night, hay bales were set on fire and it was only this morning – following steady rain – that the fire was completely extinguished.

Police and the Fire service attended the blase.

Fire damage in July

In July a field between Askham Lane and the Ainsty Park estate was set on fire prompting concerns for the safety of residents.

Hopefully the police will make progress in identifying those responsible

York Council finally responds to to flat fire fears

Council reassures tenants of its fire safety approach

Fire exit in York flat block

The York Council has finally said that it will respond to some of the concerns raised following our audit of fire safety last weekend.  It has still not confirmed that it has abandoned its plan to move housing management to an “arms length company – of the type that was complicit in the Grenfell Tower disaster.

It has issued the following statement.

 “Following the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, City of York Council is writing to its tenants and leaseholders living in its blocks of council homes.

The letter explains that the council has no high rise blocks – these are classified as having six or more storeys – and that none of its homes have aluminium composite material (ACM) type cladding which was used at Grenfell Towers. Also, the letter confirms that the council has an ongoing, rolling programme of fire risk assessments in place for all the council’s blocks with communal areas, including sheltered housing, hostels and older person’s accommodation.

The council installs hard-wired smoke detectors in tenants’ homes as part of the rolling Tenants’ Choice modernisation programme, and its gas engineers test detectors when they carry out annual gas service visits.

All sheltered housing schemes, older persons housing and hostels have communal fire alarm systems, and all vulnerable people living in them have personal emergency evacuation plans.

The letter recognises that there is always room for improvement, and that the council is currently developing a new fire safety policy for its housing stock which will reflect the most up-to-date fire safety practice.

As part of this policy work, the council will be reviewing how its existing fire safety procedures are managed across its housing stock. Any areas for development which are found will be dealt with urgently through an improvement plan. This will be overseen by Mary Weastell, the council’s chief executive and will be shared in more detail with all tenants when complete”.

So how safe are Council flats in York?

We’ve been out checking today

Clearly a check needs to be made on those blocks which have not recently been redecorated to ensure notices are up to date.

Fire procedure notice

We think that the housing department needs to proactively communicate with tenants to reassure them following this weeks tragic news from London.

Combustible storage notice

York has relatively few high rise blocks but, even at those with 2 or 3 storeys, checks need to be made on alarm systems, lighting, fire doors and electrical safety.

The results of the latest Fire Service safety audit needs to be publicly displayed in each block

We think that tenants should be offered smoke alarms and free electrical equipment safety checks.

We hope that the council will ensure that both primary and secondary safety requirements are highlighted in any planning decisions made on new or modernised flat developments ( including conversions such as the one agreed for the former Nestle factory as recently as Thursday).

Fire exit direction sign

Finally the Council needs to reconsider whether it should be consulting on transferring its stock into the management of an “arms length company”. This weeks events point to the insensitivity of such arrangements with both tenants and Councillors frustrated at a lack of engagement by officials.

Better to refine the tried and tested Council housing model which at least allows tenants to exercise some control through the ballot box.

The present system is far from perfect but appears to be better than the other available options.

Crime and safety advice from York Police & Fire/Rescue

From Fire and Rescue
From the Police

Fake Scottish £20 notes
Please be aware of two males trying to use fake Scottish £20 notes in York city centre. Please be vigilant and if you see anything suspicious please call us on 101. Crime ref 12170030308

The information contained within this alert is based on information received from various sources. The purpose of
this alert is to increase awareness of this campaign still in circulation. The campaign’s primary function appears to be
harvesting financial details via a link contained within an email.
The alert is aimed at higher education establishments; however police forces and governmental agencies have also
been targeted
Fraudsters are sending out a high number of phishing emails to university email addresses claiming to be from their
own HR department. These email addresses are either spoofed or in some cases using compromised university email
The email claims that the recipient is entitled to a pay rise from their department and to click on a link to claim the
pay rise.
This link then takes you to a spoofed university website telling you to enter to your personal details (including
university login details and financial information). These financial details can then be used by criminals, and the login
details are usually passed around and sold for future fraud campaigns.

Electric bus explosion still unexplained

The media are reporting that electric park and ride buses are returning to the streets of York following safety inspections.

Bus fire

One of the park and ride fleet caught fire last week in the Hungate area.

No one was hurt but there were small explosions in the vehicle which was substantially damaged.

There is still no explanation from either First  or the Council about the cause of the fire and the subsequent explosions.

Passengers will expect to be given more information and we would expect that both local Councillors and MPs would be actively seeking an explanation.

Electric buses off the road in York?

New electric bus fleet launched last week

New electric bus fleet launched last month

As we said yesterday, it would be prudent to suspend the use of electric buses in York until the cause of yesterdays vehicle fire had been established.

It seems that, after some dithering, First intend to do just that.

Safety must come first and we were concerned that comments from the York Council (which lets the contract for the Park and Ride services on which the buses are used) and local bus managers implied yesterday that the buses would continue in use.

In petrol powered engines, fires were not uncommon. Fires are comparatively rare in newer vehicles and, those that do occur, can usually be traced to faulty electrical components.

New technology – like that deployed in the battery powered bus fleet – is another matter. The technology is in its infancy and , although inherently safer than the internal combustion alternative, deployment needs to be cautious.

A quick investigation should reveal the cause of the fire.

If, for example, it turns out that a spanner was left by maintenance staff in the engine compartment, and this led to the short circuit which caused the fire, then that would  be one thing. A relatively easy fix (count the spanners!) and get the buses back on the road!

If a component has been incorrectly fitted then again the remedy is obvious.

Only if faulty components or – heaven forbid – a design flaw is revealed would an extensive and debilitating delay become inevitable.

We are after all just going through the first sustained period of warm weather since the large scale introduction of the buses in the City and who knows whether that might be factor?

So full marks to First for adopting a cautious approach, albeit a little late in the day.

They, and the Council, now face the headache of back-filling the gaps in the Park and Ride fleet.

Hopefully the York Council will now be open and transparent about the incident and the action that is being taken.

UPDATE: First say that the vehicle manufacturers are undertaking precautionary checks on the fleet. Park and Ride services are unaffected.