‘Wake up everyone, come out, come out’ - hero security guard helped save people in fire-hit tower block

‘I thought it would be another Grenfell’
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“I saw smoke from around the corner and then a man was on the phone to 999 asking me what the address was - I told him it was mine.”

After finishing his night shift working as a security guard, Mohamed Haji arrived home in horror to find the tower block he lived in engulfed in flames. It was him and another member of the public who were the first to alert emergency services to the blaze at Eccleston House, in Barton Hill, at around 6am on October 20.

“I spoke with the operator, gave the address, and then ran to the building to see if my housemates were safe.” Mr Haji, who lives on the second floor of the block of flats, told Bristol World.

Once the fire service was alerted, Mr Haji’s instinct to help others inside the block kicked in. As well as making it inside the smoke-filled building to warn residents, he also carried his neighbour’s son away from the site.

“I wasn’t thinking, I raced to the door, let myself in, and tried to get to my flat by taking the stairs but when I entered I saw the fire and felt the heat touch my face. I was terrified, I thought it would be another Grenfell.

“I used another entrance at the back of the building and managed to get to the second floor and began to knock on doors to wake everyone up. I started to shout ‘fire, fire, get out.’ Others started to leave their homes and helped me and I realised the fire was starting to climb the scaffolding.

“My neighbour was holding her two children, I said ‘let me carry one’ and moved them to safety before going back to warn others.”

Mohamed Haji ran into the burning building to alarm neighbours to the fire.Mohamed Haji ran into the burning building to alarm neighbours to the fire.
Mohamed Haji ran into the burning building to alarm neighbours to the fire.

Mr Haji’s housemates were not in the building at the time. He and others began to direct people fleeing the burning tower block to the nearby, Tawfiq Masjid and Centre. He still feels the impacts of entering the building.

He said: “There was a lot of smoke. My breathing has not been the same since the fire and the doctor told me to take time off work, I have not returned since. The fire service was so quick, everyone is thankful for them. I hope a security guard is added to the building to ensure everyone’s safety in case a similar thing happens.”

Six people were injured, three of which required hospital care, due to the fire, and a man was arrested for arson with intent to endanger life. Eccleston House is one of 62 council-owned tower blocks in Bristol. Last month,a fire broke out at Twinnell House, in Easton, which resulted in the death of a father of seven.

A fire has broken out at Eccleston House, in Barton Hill.A fire has broken out at Eccleston House, in Barton Hill.
A fire has broken out at Eccleston House, in Barton Hill.

Bristol City Council provided emergency accommodation to nine families who were unable to return to their flats due to fire damage. Mayor Marvin Rees admitted the authority understands why some residents may be worried for their safety in high-rise buildings.

Seapking after the Twinnell House fire, he said: “Many people will feel affected by recent events, including the fire at nearby Twinnell House, and I would encourage residents to seek support from the council’s housing and welfare teams who will continue checking in on everyone in the coming hours and days.

“It is completely understandable that high-rise residents across the city may feel upset and worried. We will be doing all we can to support them and will also be reminding all high-rise tenants in our city of the fire safety advice specific to their blocks.”