The smoke billowing from the corner of Rowena Court attracted my attention at just about the same time as I heard the approaching sirens from several fire engines this morning.
I was out walking the dog along the beach at Westgate's St Mildred's Bay at 8am and so had a grandstand view of the action unfolding in front of me.
There was a fire-alarm signal bleeping loudly from the corner building – one very good reason to have one of these installed in your own home - and the firemen were energetically trying to find the best way to approach the building with their engines. From where I was standing, this offered a future lesson to our own planning officers and members of the planning committee at the council when judging such applications in the conservation area. Building Rowena court flat-up against the sea front provides no easy means of access for the emergency services and this led to a visible delay in deploying the vehicles, ambulance included, as they had to leave the road and negotiate tightly parked cars. Before I was a councillor, some readers may recall my aerial banner protest against the demolition of Sea Tower and a new development, positioned just next door to Rowena Court and in future, I believe better planning attention needs to be given to the possibility of events similar to those I witnessed this morning.
I watched, as Fireman donned their breathing equipment and went into the building, apparently recovering one elderly gentleman, who was taken to a waiting ambulance. As I left to take my daughter to school the four fire engines appeared to have the incident under control. While I don't pretend to be an expert in such matters, fire engines are of a standard size and if the fire had been more serious, I believe the delay in being able to deploy the emergency response in such a tight and potentially inaccessible spot could have proved an important factor in rescuing residents.