22.3.16 Care home fire results in £380,000 fine for Donwell House owners

06-04-2016

Inspectors found condemned fire extinguishers and wedged open doors when they investigated Donwell House care home in Washington, Tyne and Wear

A care group has been hit with a fine and costs totalling £410,000 after putting the lives of residents and staff at risk at its North East home due to a series of fire regulation breaches.

They came to light after a probe into a blaze at Donwell House Care Home in Washington , Tyne and Wear in September 2014 where a pensioner had to be rescued from her first floor window and taken to hospital.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue service investigators uncovered five safety breaches.

Officers found almost half of the home’s fire extinguishers had been condemned by owner Shaftesbury Care Group Ltd’s contractor.

They also discovered fire doors wedged open and ruled Shaftesbury had failed to install safety measures identified in a risk assessment. These included installing electronic devices that allow fire doors to be held open and quickly closed in an emergency.

Shaftesbury admitted the breaches at a hearing in February.  The group was fined £380,000 and ordered to pay £29,222 costs at Newcastle Crown Court on Tuesday 22nd March 2016.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Community Safety Chris Lowther, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The breaches found at this care home put the lives of residents and staff at risk.

“We have around five thousand interactions with businesses annually, where we work to educate and inform them of their responsibilities to comply with the law.  This means that there is seldom the need for prosecution.  However, where lives are put at risk and the law has been broken we will not hesitate to prosecute.

“This fine imposed by the judge is one of the most significant we are aware of for a case of this kind.  It should serve as a warning to businesses, and especially care home operators, that failure to carry out their responsibilities regarding fire safety can and will have serious consequences.”

Seventeen fire fighters were needed after the blaze broke out in a bedroom of the 60 bed care home.  Fire destroyed the bedroom and damaged a corridor, while causing severe smoke damage to other bedrooms and a laundry room.

The door was wedged open in the room where the fire started. This, the fire services says, let smoke and heat fill the communal corridor and travel into a neighbouring bedroom which also had a wedged open door.

An 81-year-old woman became trapped in her room and had to be rescued by fire fighters who entered the building through a window.  She was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead and kept in overnight.

 

Story collated by Liz Turnbull.

Resources used:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk

http://www.sunderlandecho.com

 

Registered Office:  Southwold House, 66 Botley Road, Park Gate, Southampton, United Kingdom

Company number: 07810000