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Disabled man struggled to escape home, owned by mhs homes, following fire at flat in Rochester

By Rachel Dixon

A landlord is taking action after a couple struggled to escape from a fire ravaging their home due to limited disabled access.

Tony Strickland and his full-time carer Mick Gibson were asleep in their ground floor flat in Stirling Close, Rochester, when the blaze started at around 3am on Sunday, May, 20. The cause is thought to be a discarded cigarette outside.

They say none of the fire alarms went off and they were only roused when a neighbour banged on the door.

Mick Gibson and Tony Strickland of Stirling Close Rochester have returned to their smoke damaged flat
Mick Gibson and Tony Strickland of Stirling Close Rochester have returned to their smoke damaged flat

Mr Strickland is an amputee due to diabetes and uses a wheelchair.

Mr Gibson, 66, said: “I ran in here to get his wheelchair and the whole place was full of smoke. The boy who raised the alarm and I picked him up, shoving him in the wheelchair.”

Mr Strickland added: “I’m deaf so I didn’t hear anything.

“I was manhandled out of the bed and they got me out. It was so smoky I didn’t know what was going on.”

Although they live on the ground floor the pair had to tackle a steep flight of stairs to get to street level.

Heat from the blaze blew the kitchen window apart
Heat from the blaze blew the kitchen window apart

Their landlord, mhs homes, put them up in a hotel for six weeks during repairs. Despite the housing association replacing the window, cleaning and redecorating multiple rooms, the couple are not satisfied.

They have also asked for a wet room rather than a shower, as Mr Strickland struggles to use it.

A spokesman for mhs homes, Suzanne Smith, said: “We’re extremely relieved this fire didn’t cause any serious harm to our customers and are glad they’re now back at home.

“We replaced the window, cleaned throughout, redecorated the bedroom, hallway, bathroom ceiling and kitchen and washed external walls, balconies and windows.

The fire destroyed the couple's kitchen
The fire destroyed the couple's kitchen

“We also helped remove any fire-damaged goods.

“Fire detectors were fitted in 2014. These were hard wired and get tested every five years.

“It’s fair to say this property isn’t fully accessible which is why we’re visiting them to reassess their needs and talk through the options available to them.”

Landlords visited the property and repainted the walls and ceiling.

Suzanne Smith added: "We went to visit the residents on Tuesday 10 July, to carry out a post inspection of the things we’ve already done.

"We’ll keep in touch with them to let them know what’s going on and when.

"We’re glad the residents have been able to return home and hope these further steps will help them to feel a little more reassured."

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