Apparently the fire started about 3am in a top floor flat. Their smoke alarm went off, but none of the alarms in the building are wired together - something I said was an accident waiting to happen when I lived there. As no one was in upstairs, the fire continued for several more hours, until the downstairs neighbours smelled smoke and woke up at 6am. They rang my dad, who went outside to look and found the fire was so bad the roof was about to collapse. He told my mum to ring the fire brigade while he went round pressing all the neighbours' doorbells to wake them up (!). Many of them didn't answer because they thought it was a prank caller (!!). Yes, some of these people are lucky to be alive. The fire was bad enough for the fire brigade to close the road for several hours, and Richard said the top floor flat where the fire started is completely gutted.
It's quite frankly crazy to build timber-framed flats with no communal fire alarm system - let alone blocks with only one usable fire escape. It's taken this fire for people to realise their windows are too small to escape through, another thing I said when we lived there. By 2pm the loss adjuster from the building's insurance, the council planning officer, and reporters from both local newspapers had all been round, so I'm hopeful some good will come out of it. Kingston is nothing but new-build blocks of flats (if you want a house, you have to buy a Victorian terrace or semi), and I wonder how many of them actually have a sensible fire system. If we can get this reported, perhaps the council will stop approving plans for blocks of flats with inadequate safety measures, and it may even save some lives.
I do feel sorry for the people who went away on holiday and will return to find their home is destroyed, though :/