Underground car park blaze leaves residents fearing for their safety

By Maurice Garvey

A FIRE erupted in the underground car park at an apartment complex in Clondalkin on Sunday night after youths set ablaze discarded furniture.

One resident was driving into the Thornfield Square underground car park as the blaze was taking hold – the frightened mother was forced to make a terrified retreat as plumes of smoke engulfed her windscreen.

Thronfield Sq - FIRE BASEMENT merged

The fire caused severe plumbing and electrical damage – leaving residents in many apartments without access this week to cold water, television, functioning toilets, and others forced to move into emergency accommodation.

The Echo newsdesk was inundated by calls from irate residents in the wake of a previous story two weeks ago (Delinquent Landlords Contribute to Anti-social Behaviour – Echo, January 21).

While new locks have since been fitted to the front doors of the apartment blocks, residents spoke to The Echo this week and listed a long line of complaints – citing a lack of lighting in hallways, no lift service, anti-social behaviour, vandalism, lack of security in the basement car park, and fears for the safety of their children.

O’Connor Property Management (OPM) are responsible for the complex, which contains a mix of tenants who are either owner occupiers, bulk occupiers, private-rental tenants, and a number of council tenants on RAS schemes.

OPM said “delinquent landlords” not paying management fees contributed to a lack of finances to carry out works.

However residents and council tenants and landlords who are paying rent or fees and wish to live in a safe environment with adequate amenities, have blasted the lack of maintenance and communication by the management company.

Patrick McCabe, a Thornfield resident for six years, has compiled a dossier of problems in the estate, which he described as “little time bombs waiting to go off”.

Mr McCabe said: “OPM was warned about the fire threat in the basement but did nothing. Discarded furniture is left down there in the open. It’s not secured, and youths can get in and hang out. It was only a matter of time. There are no parking regulations here and the fire brigade was delayed getting in.

“The place is a product of the Celtic Tiger – thrown up with cheap lifts, with five of six lifts not working in six years. Why am I paying top rent, and why is my landlord paying his management fees when we have no basic amenities? OPM need to collect the money and spend it wisely, but they don’t reply to requests and don’t seem to care.”

In 2013 vandals set fire to a communal stairway at Block B – leading to a number of people been treated for smoke inhalation.

“People leave doors open in halls because there’s no lights, that’s how the fire spread,” said Mr McCabe.
One private owner who bought his two-bed apartment in Block F, says it has become a one-bed apartment after a roof leak from the floor above destroyed one of his bedrooms.

“That happened last June and I am still waiting for them to fix the damage,” said the owner.

“Insurance assessors came out, builders knocked holes in the ceiling and walls, and haven’t been back since. The smell of damp is really bad. There is no insulation. My kids can’t stay with me at the weekend. Why am I paying management fees.”

Single mothers living in Block B are particularly vulnerable to the hazards of anti-social behavior.

Jemma Bingham, a mother-of-one said: “There are no lights outside, no lights in the hallways or CCTV cameras. There was a problem with rats turning up on the balcony.

“We can’t let the kids out. People get into the block and drink, smoke weed. It’s just too frightening for the kids. Anybody can walk into the blocks.”

Justine Obiulokicz, a mother-of-two living in Block B, was the resident caught unaware by the fire in the car park when driving home on Sunday night.

“I never saw it so big – I was afraid for my kids,” said Justine.

“Heavy smoke was on the car. Other people’s cars were close to the fire.

“A while ago there was a fight in the hallway with a knife and blood was everywhere. This place is not safe for families. You have to make it safe and keep all doors and entrances locked.”

Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said he “can see a vigilante group forming” to tackle the “riff raff coming in and out.”

O’Connor Property Management did not respond The Echo at the time of going to print.



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