TERRIFIED tenants have labelled Brooke House a “disaster waiting to happen” after fire crews were called to the Basildon tower block.

A total of 24 firefighters were needed at the Grade II listed town centre building after a resident apparently threw a lit cigarette down a bin chute and sparked a blaze, at about 11pm on Wednesday.

Residents said the block filled with plumes of toxic smoke, while the building’s fire alarm system failed to go off.

They claim it was the block’s security staff – employed after pressure from residents – who had to call the fire service. The fire was out by 11.30pm.

Natasha Griggs, 34, who has a five-year-old son, on the tenth floor, said: “This block is just a disaster waiting to happen.

“Residents were choking on the smoke and it’s not easy to escape from a building like this.

“My son has gone to school terrified today, because he feared he was going to die.

“It’s bad enough having to witness the violence and parties, let alone living in fear that someone is going to start a fire, too. I really don’t know what to do anymore.”

Residents claim the fire was started deliberately, but Essex Fire Service was unable to confirm the cause of the blaze.

Four engines were dispatched as a precaution, because it is a high rise building.

Families believe the incident again shows the block is unsuitable for children.

A group of councillors and officers who reviewed the tower concluded it was unsuitable for children.

But they have warned them moving families out will not happen overnight due to the length of the council’s housing list, but parents claim this shows moving them out should be a priority.

Lesley Bailey, 47, who has an eight-year-old child, said: “I live on the 11th floor and the smoke was phenomenal – it was choking, toxic, smoke.

“Wednesday night was a reminder there are idiots living in here putting other residents’ lives at risk.