‘I lost £180,000 in a self-storage fire'

  • Published
Media caption,
Customers tell Shurgard's Duncan Bell: "I do not accept that apology"

Customers who lost belongings worth thousands of pounds when a self-storage warehouse burned down on New Year's Eve have refused to accept an apology.

Shurgard told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme it had complied fully with building regulations.

But the customers queried the lack of sprinklers and staff on site at the Croydon warehouse, with 1,198 units.

They said they had also been "misled" over claims sentimental belongings could be stored there.

Image source, London Fire Brigade
Image caption,
At its height, about 120 firefighters tackled the blaze in Purley Way, Croydon

Rachel Gould told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme: "I put the entire contents of my house in that storage unit - all my furniture, most of my clothes, two crates full of photos... all my memories, all my cards and letters from my family.

"It's all gone. I'm still in shock. I feel devastated. And I feel like a huge part of my personal identity has just disappeared. Huge parts of my family history have just gone."

Ms Gould said she had lost heirlooms and letters from her recently deceased grandmother in the fire.

Mark Brewer said he had lost £180,000 worth of stock from his beauty business, which had brought his company to a halt.

"The business operationally has stopped, because I don't have anything to send out for the orders that we have," he said.

He had also stored items belonging to his late mother in a separate unit on site.

Image caption,
Duncan Bell said the company had contacted customers individually to apologise

Appearing on the programme, Duncan Bell, vice-president of Operations at Shurgard, said the company "would like to apologise".

"We've apologised by email. On the phone, we've been contacting all our customers individually to speak to them to offer our apologies and see what we can do to help.

"I welcome the chance to apologise here as well in person," he said.

But this was rejected by both Ms Gould and Mr Brewer, who both replied: "I don't accept that apology."

Ms Gould added: "All I've been offered is the insurance level that I've taken out with Shurgard, so it's £2,000 per unit."

Mr Brewer said he had not been offered "anything".

"I've been directed to the insurance company that are dealing with the insurance claims," he added.

'No sprinklers'

Labour MP for Croydon North Steve Reed said questions remained over how the fire was able to spread.

"Not only was the design of the building not constructed to contain fire, it sounds like it was constructed to facilitate the spread of fire," he told the programme.

"The fact that the walls didn't go up to the top of every unit allows the flames to spread from one unit to another, the fact you have no idea what was in each unit... there could have been flammable material.

"There were no sprinklers in place. It sounds to me that these people have been sold services on the basis that this facility was safe and secure, but actually no measures have been put in to make sure a fire like this could get put out rapidly."

Image caption,
Firefighters attended the scene from about 20:00 GMT on New Year's Eve

Ms Gould also questioned why staff had been on site during "working hours" only - and so had not been present when the fire had started, at about 19:45 GMT.

She said she also felt "misled", given that the company's website had promised to keep the belongings of loved ones "safe" but the terms and conditions said it was forbidden for customers to store "objects with an emotional or special value".

The company said: "It's an area we will certainly look at and if we think it's misleading, we will undoubtedly change it."

Mr Bell said: "The building, like all Shurgard buildings, fully comply with all building and fire regulations.

"We are responsible for putting in place a functioning self-storage site, which was what we did.

"Nobody envisaged this was going to happen and we are responding in the best and quickest way we can."

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