A BLAZE, which left a drug dealer in hospital, spread from his flat because of dangerous wooden cladding, an investigation has confirmed.

Essex fire service conducted an urgent probe into a fire which destroyed a flat in Elm Road, Shoebury in March, in which the occupant’s dog died.

Officers found the fire had initially been contained within the ground floor flat, but spread upwards as neighbours opened doors to rescue the occupant. This allowed flames to spread further within the flat and to escape to ignite wood cladding on the outside of the three-storey building.

The fire, which started in the living room, had caused part of the ceiling to collapse, but the flames did not spread to the flat above internally.

A report obtained by the Echo following a freedom of information request, noted that firefighters found “a well-developed fire which had breached both the front and rear doors of the property. The occupier was lying on the grass to the front of the property. Action was taken at the rear of the property as fire was spreading upwards via the external wooden cladding.”

The report also revealed the flat had been littered with domestic waste. The tenant had allowed another man to also stay at the flat and a mattress in the bathroom had fuelled the initial spread of the fire.

It added the occupant was known to police as both a drug user and seller and stash of “bladed items and weapons” were found around the property. Essex Police has since confirmed no arrests were made.

All but one CCTV cameras at the flats owned by Swan Housing was not operational, with most being dummy cameras.

Shoebury councillor Anne Chalk called for an investigation into the safety of residents living in the “match box” flats following the Grenfell tower block disaster. Mrs Chalk said: “Further investigation is needed on this and I shall be raising the issue again. We should also be looking at other places with this timber cladding.”

The report could have been caused by a discarded cigarette, but arson couldn’t be ruled out. The occupant, who was treated at Southend Hospital and later discharged, is said to have gone to live with friends in Southend following the fire.

Probe into weapons haul

THE housing association which owns the Elm Road flats has launched an investigation into weapons found after the blaze.

A spokeswoman for Swan Housing Association said: “The association considers the safety of its residents as paramount whether this relates to fire safety or antisocial behaviour. We work in close partnership with the police, fire & rescue and our own health and safety advisors and take all action as is necessary to ensure residents’ safety.”

The spokeswoman added the firm was working with the fire brigade to confirm all appropriate safety measures were in place at Cedar Court following the fire.

She said: “We are also able to confirm that there had previously been a report of antisocial behaviour at this address but this was dealt with and no further complaints were received.

"Where potentially dangerous items are suspected we work with the police who have the authority to investigate such matters, as we are doing in this case.”

Residents who have concerns about antisocial behaviour or fire safety at the flats should call specially trained housing teams on 0300 303 2500.