Wales

Cardiff North AM's concern after fire in house

Lives were put at risk by a failure to replace a recalled circuit breaker which later caught fire in a Welsh housing association property, claims an assembly member.

The fire at Yolanda Brito's Cardiff home happened a month after manufacturers recalled the product.

Cadwyn Housing Association said it would have acted quicker, but had been told there was a low risk.

Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan wants an inquiry into the alleged failings.

Mr Morgan said: "This is an absolutely disgraceful set of circumstances. I'm very worried that my constituent has been put at risk in this way."

Mrs Brito and her three daughters, Naomi, 23, Soraya, 18, and Natasha, 16, were in their home in the Llandaff North area when the fire started on 1 May.

The electricity had tripped off, and when she flicked a switch to restore power the rear of the unit caught fire and smoke billowed into the kitchen. Naomi switched the power off outside the house and stopped the fire spreading.

Mrs Brito said: "I'm totally disgusted. I don't own this house; they have a duty to their tenants.

She said she had reported the fact that the electricity kept tripping off before the fire.

Mrs Brito said: "Potentially we could have all died. If it hadn't happened in the daytime, we would have been asleep at night and it could have happened at that point."

Manufacturer Electrium sent a letter to some housing associations on 31 March to inform them that certain circuit breakers were being recalled, having already informed wholesalers at the beginning of March.

Cadwyn Housing Association said it was not informed of the problem by Electrium and did not know about it until informed by a contractor on 8 April, three weeks before the fire.

'Low risk'

Cadwyn chief executive Chris O' Meara said her organisation subsequently made plans to replace the circuit breakers having held a meeting with Electrium, at which Cadwyn was told the components presented a "low risk".

Chris O' Meara said: "Our first priority is our tenants' welfare. If we'd have been told the risk was higher we would have acted quicker."

Ms O' Meara said the information given by Electrium had "absolutely" not proved good enough.

Mr Morgan said housing associations should have circulated the recall information more widely.

Mr Morgan said: "They (Cadwyn) should have acted more quickly. It begs the question why this housing association did nothing for three weeks and then... my constituent's house caught fire."

He added: "I think the housing minister needs to undertake an urgent inquiry to establish what happened to look at the facts then see what protocols are needed to share information in a better way in the future."

A spokesperson for Deputy Housing Minister Jocelyn Davies said: "Cadwyn Housing Association assures us that they are carrying out work to replace the equipment and they have now replaced in the region of 150 of the approximately 200 circuit breakers that need replacing.

"Cadwyn has also committed to reviewing their response to the recall once the urgent work has been completed. "

Electrium said there was only a "low risk" of their units overheating and that until it has inspected the circuit breakers it could not be sure that happened in Mrs Brito's case.

A spokesman said even with a low risk, safety was of paramount importance, which is why a recall was ordered.

Electrium said it could not make contact with Cadwyn directly because the housing association was not listed as specifying it used their goods, and therefore contact was made through a contractor.

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