Cairn hits back after fire sparks concerns

A SENIOR official at Cairn Housing Association has defended the firm’s move to dispense with a full-time warden at Douglas Haig Court after a chip pan fire at the sheltered housing unit earlier this week.

Hugh Collins, the company’s head of service (south region), insisted that the decision to remove a full-time warden from the premises in April 2011, due to council cuts to housing support, had resulted in increased attendance at the complex, where a blaze broke out on Monday afternoon. A man of 80 was treated in hospital overnight for smoke inhalation, while an 87-year-old man was treated in hospital before released and a third man, aged 70, treated at the scene.

The Hawick News understands from a resident at the home that two members of staff there had agreed to job-share to avoid the redundancy but that they were unable to care for residents as they had previously. The resident added: “There are more carers having to come in and do the work the wardens provided. I can’t see how that is saving money.”

But, Mr Collins responded to such suggestions by arguing that the hours covered by fully-trained staff had actually increased since the staff reshuffle.

He said: “Staffing arrangements were changed following changes in funding arrangements by Scottish Borders Council. We now have one fully trained person in place Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4pm. The hours previously covered were from 8.30-3.30pm. The cover has therefore increased and were put in place following full consultation with the residents. It was in fact the newer member of staff who dealt admirably with the incident.”

Mr Collins’ colleague Jason MacGlip, chief executive at Cairn, singled out housing support manager Christine Hope and colleague Ruth Hutton for their quick thinking during the episode, in which the fire caused severe damage to the kitchen and the sitting room of the 33-bedroom complex.

Firefighters from Hawick, Selkirk and Galashiels responded to an automatic fire alarm call to Douglas Haig Court, in the town’s Linden Crescent, shortly before 1pm, and on arrival found a fire in the kitchen of a ground floor flat in the two-storey complex.

Three fire engines appliances, an incident support unit, and two ambulances were involved at the scene. 
A small number of residents had to be evacuated from their homes and had to wait approximately three hours before being allowed to return due to the volume of smoke.
Mr MacGilp added: “Two residents received hospital treatment and the fire and
rescue service attended very promptly, which we thank them for.
“The alarms went off and Christine responded and went to the door of the flat and ushered the resident out of the flat and out of the building. 
“She was very courageous and did a great job.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesman responded: “We are confident that Cairn Housing Association runs a well-managed facility in Douglas Haig Court and this includes a regular onsite staff presence.”