Discarded cigarette led to Wolverhampton flats blaze

A discarded cigarette was the cause of a fire that left 30 people in a block of flats homeless.

A discarded cigarette was the cause of a fire that left 30 people in a block of flats homeless.

West Midlands Fire Service today confirmed the cause of the devastating blaze in Wolverhampton, tackled by 50 firefighters on Saturday .

The three-storey block of flats, on Willenhall Road in East Park, is so structurally unsafe that even fire crews were told to get out of the building as there were signs it could collapse. Residents have been forced to leave the flats and move in with relatives or stay in hotels or hostels.

The block may eventually have to be demolished.

Couple Steve Tym and Emily Smedley today spoke of their dramatic escape from the fire.

They initially thought it had been put out and so went back to their living room, unaware that the fire was still smouldering throughout the building.

Miss Smedley, aged 33, said: “It was just a little fire at first but someone had thrown water on it and we thought that was that.

“We were back on our sofa in the living room and Steve could smell something singeing. Then literally an hour later the whole building has gone.

“We got out as fast as we could and started kicking down doors as we thought the fire was in a flat. Luckily we all rallied round and we knew who was in and who was out.”

The couple, currently staying in a hotel paid for via their house insurance, fear it may be 12 months before they can move back in if the building can be restored. Miss Smedley and Mr Tym are also unaware of the whereabouts of their tortoiseshell cat Fatty, who disappeared during the blaze.

West Midlands Fire Service said its firefighters were initially hampered due to the building’s timber cassette construction, which allowed the fire to spread, horizontally and vertically, via internal cavities.

Four properties next to the block were also evacuated as a precaution due to a gable wall becoming unstable. Chief Fire Officer Vij Randeniya said crews had “worked tirelessly” to bring the fire under control as quickly as possible.