RESIDENTS of high rise flats in Scotland have told how there are regular fires in their own tower blocks.

In the wake of the horrific Grenfell Tower fire in London, families say they want reassurances that they are safe and increased protective measures to be installed.

Almost every resident of Glasgow tower blocks interviewed by our sister newspaper the Sunday Herald said there had been fires in their high rises. Many said they unsure about evacuation procedures. Glasgow has the highest population of tower blocks in the UK, with an estimated 96 high rises due to be refurbished. In 2003, there were 201 tower blocks, 73 of which have been knocked down.

Others called for sprinklers – which in Glasgow Housing Association properties are only found in locked bin stores – to be installed on all floors, as well as additional fire extinguishers and improved exits.

Yesterday, the outside of the tower block at 30 Kingsway is still blackened by smoke — the damage stretching up eight or more floors — from a fire that happened around a month ago. It is understood that someone set fire to a bin bag.

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One resident, who lives with her mother on the 18th floor said she could smell smoke and then spotted the fire out of the window. She remained indoors, was not evacuated and the fire was put out but she was left shaken. “What happened in London is a disgrace. I keep thinking about those babies and wee ones. I’m left terrified and so is my mum. I want out but they won’t rehouse me. I think there should be sprinklers and more fire exits. They are testing a new system now where they are putting fire retardant material on the verandas and they say if you go there then it means you’ll be safe for 30 minutes. But what if the fire fighters can’t get to you? There are a lot of old pensioners and young families up in these blocks and I think more and more people are worried after London.” Elham Ghousi, 20, whose family are from Afghanistan and who has lived on the 8th floor of 30 Kingsway block for most of his life, said that the fire was handled safely, adding: “I was outside and they stopped people from entering for a couple of hours.”

Pushing her ten-month-old baby in his buggy outside their 15th floor flat in Lincoln Avene yesterday Lubica Zimnoch said she had been uncertain how to react when recent fires broke out. “There have been two fires here recently,” she said. “During the last one I heard an alarm and so we came down the stairs alone. Nobody told us to. I wasn’t sure what I should do.”

Glasgow Housing Association yesterday confirmed that the cladding used in its recent multi-million pound refurbishment programme is non-combustible and very different from the Celotex RS 5000 material cladding the Grenfell Tower. However, some residents said they were unaware of the difference and as a result had been left in fear. Near the Kingsway tower block, Gary Melville is sitting on a bench watching his five-year-old son play. “You just wonder if the cladding is safe here,” he said. When told that GHA had confirmed that it was he looked relieved but added: “Nobody’s made sure we know that. There’s been no letters through the door, nothing up in the foyer or anything.”

He watched the last fire through the windows of his 14th floor flat but said the first he knew about it was the flashing blue emergency lights below. “I don’t really know what would make [the blocks safer],” he said. “I feel they should just knock them down and start again.”

He believes the buildings are flawed. The new lifts that have been installed are already regularly breaking down, he says, with people sometimes trapped inside. Instead of risking the lifts he regularly walks his two young children up and down the 14 floors. “We’ve been trying to move but the GHA bidding system is no use. We’ve two kids, four and five, and they say its fine for them to share a bedroom so we’re not a priority.”

One resident who has lived on the 20th floor of a Kingsway flat for five years, but did not want to be named, said he had previously lived in the Grenfell Tower in 2001-2003 after coming to the UK from Algeria.

“Of course we’re scared,” he said. “I’m 20 floors up. I lived in [Grenfell] for four years and it was horrible. I have to say it is much better here. GHA staff are always around. But accidents do happen. I would like to move from here to be honest.” Another said: “Of course sprinklers are going to help, but let’s face it, that’s not going to happen.”

David Mowatt, a previous tenant of Kingsway blocks, said: “What happened in London is really tragic. It does make you think it would be good if there were sprinklers here, and fire extinguishers and more fire escapes.”

It is understood that housing officers in Scotland have been working extra hours in the days since the London fire, double checking fire alarms and other safety features and being “extra vigilant”. However some residents said that they did not feel they had been kept informed.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said the union wanted to make it a legal requirement for a sprinkler system and some form of smoke alarm to be fitted in every high rise property. The FBU, which has long lobbied on the issue is expected to step up its campaign.

New high-rise buildings in England, Scotland and Wales must be fitted with sprinklers, but there currently no laws compelling landlords to “retro-fit” older high-rises with sprinklers.

Despite recommendations from a coroner’s report from March 2013 for government to “encourage” high rise housing providers to install them, few multi-story blocks have them in place. In Glasgow, GHA has sprinklers in the bin stores to stop fires spreading via the rubbish chute but none in the main buildings while in Edinburgh city council properties there are none.

Wrack said: “The FBU has campaigned on this issue for some time and has said good quality smoke alarms and sprinkler systems should be in place. Our position is that we are calling for it to become a legal requirement that a sprinkler system should be in each property.”

A spokesman from Glasgow Housing Association said: “We would stress that we have a robust approach in place to minimise the risk of fire, and prevent it spreading. We have set up a helpline for any concerned tenants who need extra reassurance and there’s information about that on our website and Facebook page.

“We will listen very carefully to any additional safety recommendations or advice from the authorities as a result of the London fire and are standing ready to take any necessary actions around any lessons to be learned.”

Following the London fire it emerged the residents, through the Grenfell Action Group, had raised safety concerns for many years but had been ignored.

Sean Baillie, Glasgow campaigner of the Living Rent campaign, said: “Our main concern is that we always allow tenants voices to be heard and for them to be involved.”