Thieves responsible for boiler blast

Published: Monday 31st January 11

An investigation into an explosion at a Battersea housing block last week has revealed that thieves were responsible for causing the blast.

The incident occurred inside a privately owned flat in Dungeness House in York Road last Tuesday evening when a hot water tank blew up. It demolished two internal walls inside the property and also shattered windows. Fortunately the occupant escaped with only minor injuiries. 

A detailed investigation into the cause has revealed that thieves had disabled one of the heating system's vital safety features by removing and then sealing off copper vent pipes that feed into the block's water tank in the roof.

These copper pipes are an essential safety feature that allow excess water and steam to escape from the hot water cyclinder if it should overheat. As well as stealing the copper piping, the thieves capped the remaining pipework to prevent it from leaking and causing a flood, in order to cover their tracks and ensure that no-one knew the pipes had been had been taken.

Unfortunately the thermostat on the hot water cylinder failed causing the water to overheat and because the safety vent pipe had been capped, pressure increased inside the tank until it exploded.

An inspection of other roof tanks on the estate has uncovered similar thefts. Now the council is to undertake an urgent safety audit of all similar roof tanks at housing blocks across the borough.

Until that safety check has been completed, tenants and leaseholders who have their own individual immersion heaters are being advised to show caution when these are switched on.

Housing spokesman Cllr Guy Senior said: "We are very concerned at what we have found. Whoever did this is putting people's lives at risk for the sake of a few pounds worth of scrap metal.

"Our advice to anyone who uses an immersion heater that starts emitting unusual sounds or noises is that they should switch it off immediately and contact the housing department's emergency team who are able to respond 24 hours a day.

"We are now going to undertake an urgent check of all blocks to see if this theft is an isolated case or a more widespread problem.

"Obviously if we find any other missing pipework we will replace it with plastic piping which will do the same job but which will not be worth anything to the thieves.

"At the same time we will be looking to see what additional security measures we can take to prevent thieves accessing the roof space. Residents can help us in this task by being vigilant. Anyone seen trying to gain access to the roof spaces should be reported urgently to the housing department.

"Residents on our housing estates can rest assured that now we are aware of this problem we will be taking urgent steps to prevent it happening again."

 View comments on this article

Comments on this news item have been closed.

If you wish to complain about a comment, contact us at

Recent comments

Another important feature of any building over 6 floors is the dry riser used by the fire service to provide firefighting water to the upper floors. These are also being stolen for the same reason - selling on as scrap metal. If anyone notices there dry riser outlets missing they should inform their local fire station so that contingency measures can be put in place until the dry riser can be repaired.
jackie mcconochie

9 February 2011