Escaped snake reportedly exposes fire safety breaches

Escaped snake reportedly exposes fire safety breaches

A RESIDENT of a block of flats in Exeter has claimed that his pet python’s escape and discovery ‘exposed fire safety breaches’ via ‘missing’ fire safety compartmentation.

Devon Live reported on the allegations by Samuel Maule, who lived at Hill Barton Vale development constructed by Persimmon Homes, and whose 14ft African Rock python Satan escaped into the walls of his flat. The development is one of six in the south west named by a whistleblower as having failed health and safety inspections, after a fire at a similar development in April 2018.

In August 2018 the snake ‘sparked a major search’ in the block, being found after three days hiding in the ceiling space between Mr Maule’s one bedroom flat and the one above, with the assistance of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s snake eye cameras and a local reptile expert. This led to an inspection of the six flat building by social housing provider LiveWest, with Mr Maule claiming that fire compartmentation was missing between his and all the other flats in the block.

He also claimed that compartmentation has ‘been fitted’ since, with another resident Paul Frost having launched an investigation in a separate block after he found his home in Exeter was also missing fire safety barriers. Persimmon is said to have ‘persistently refused’ to answer questions from the news outlet about how many homes in the development failed inspections, and how many other developments locally and nationwide have failed.

It had ‘initially denied’ a problem with the properties after Mr Frost had notified them of concerns at his own property, with Persimmon then sending letters to residents asking them to inspect their own homes ‘due to roof space cavity problems’ in what was believed to be Mr Frost’s home. Each of the company’s properties is supposed to go through a three part check, by sub contractors, site managers and either building control officers or the National House Building Council (NHBC).

In turn, periodic ‘spot’ checks are supposed to be made by the contracts manager and construction director, though these are not recorded. The NHBC said that it ‘has not received any contacts or claims concerning fire safety barriers at Hill Barton Vale’, while both Persimmon Homes and LiveWest did not provide a comment or response.

Mr Maule commented that he was waiting to be rehoused by LiveWell as the lack of compartmentation was ‘just one of a number’ of issues with the property, and he no longer felt safe there. He stated: ‘My snake managed to get through a gap which should not have been there at the back of my toilet and it managed to get up the wall and through the eaves and into a space above between my flat and the one above.

‘Can you imagine if there had been a fire? It would have spread quite quickly. My snake going missing did me and the other residents a favour as we would have not known the flats were dangerous. These flats are terrible. There’s cracks in the walls and ceilings. It’s like the building is moving. I’ve had problems with handles coming off the doors and the kitchen sink leaks like crazy.

‘There’s just problem after problem. I’ve never lived in a Persimmon Homes before and I never want to again.’