London Fire Brigade's (LFB) fire safety officers visited Tyre Channel in Croydon, south London, after police raised their concerns over poor safety conditions.
Inspectors found a makeshift corridor constructed at the rear of the single-storey industrial unit with several rooms leading off it, including a kitchen and bedrooms which were used as living accommodation for workers at the site.
They found the premises heavily fire loaded with flammable items, including tyres stacked in excess of four metres high and issued a notice later the same day to prohibit the premises from being used for sleeping or residential use.
An emergency fire exit was nailed shut and inaccessible due to piled up tyres and there was no smoke detection in the building. The corridor, which bedrooms were accessed via, was constructed of plywood and would have offered little protection against fire spreading through the premises.
Anup Patel and Tyre Channel pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. The company was fined £60,000 but the judge reduced it by a third for its guilty plea, plus £10,000 costs. Patel was handed an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
According to LFB, Judge Hehir described the premises in Mill Lane as “a tinder box in the making”.
The residential area had evidence of both cooking and smoking and scorched and overloaded cables highlighted the poor maintenance of electrics. Tyre Channel had no fire risk assessment for the premises and there was no evidence that anyone working there had been trained in emergency procedures.
LFB’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, Dan Daly, said: “Judge Hehir was right when he described TC as a “tinder box in the making” – it was just sheer luck there hadn’t been a fire there.
“As the director of the company, Patel had complete disregard for the safety of his staff, both while at work and in the living arrangements many of them were paying him for.
“There is no excuse for leaving people’s safety to chance, especially when information is so readily available to those with responsibility for safety in buildings to understand what their duties are and ensure they comply with the law.”