A small fire at a block of flats in Runcorn “could have been a lot worse” due to the building’s dangerous cladding, residents have said.

One of the six blocks at The Decks was evacuated just after midday on Tuesday when a plastic tub melted onto a kitchen hob that had been accidentally left on.

Firefighters reached The Decks within minutes of the alarm being sounded and were able to put the fire out before it became more serious.

Nobody was harmed during the incident, but residents said the alarm had only added to their fears about living in the blocks which were deemed a fire hazard after their cladding was found to be highly flammable more than a year ago.

One leaseholder, Julie Fraser, said: “This is the constant fear of living at The Deck due to dangerous cladding and many other fire safety issues. Had the fire been bigger, the whole situation could have been a lot more serious.”

Another resident simply described the incident as “brutal”.

The incident was the first test of The Decks’ new fire alarm system, which was installed last year at significant cost to the leaseholders in response to concerns raised by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Building managers Scanlans said the new systems had worked as they should, but residents said there had been “confusion” as the alarms sounded around the same time that they were normally tested each week and only went off in communal areas, not in the individual apartments.

Rachel Bose, another resident, tweeted: “It was only when people on the same floor opened their doors, and smelled burning they evacuated.

“Also, only the alarms in the corridor were going off, not the ones in the flats – smoke detectors or heat sensors which we have just paid heavily for.

“Another issue which arose – people on the other side to where the fire occurred also waited longer than they should have, as they could not smell smoke, or see any smoke!! No alarms went off in their flats only in the corridor. They too thought it was a test.”

Residents also said that fire crews were delayed in reaching the incident on the second floor of Lock 8 by vehicles parked on the development’s access road.

Vehicles have been banned from the normal parking spaces under each block since the end of 2019 due to concerns that a car fire could spread upwards.

But this means some residents have to park on the access road, posing problems for emergency vehicles.

However, the biggest cause of concern for leaseholders is that the fire occurred in one of three blocks at the development that were ruled ineligible for the government’s Building Safety Fund last year.

The fund is meant to support leaseholders who are facing huge bills to replace dangerous cladding, but three of the six blocks at The Decks, including Lock 8, were found to fall short of the 18m height requirement that the scheme imposes.

Helen Rowe, another resident, said: “Fire and safety does not limit itself and we didn’t build the buildings, sign off on safety or choose the materials. We will equally never own them but are currently looking at having to foot the entire bill.”

Ms Fraser, who is also a leading member of the Liverpool Cladiators cladding campaign group, echoed these comments, adding that she was concerned the buildings would now struggle to renew their insurance this year after a 600% rise in premiums last year.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s incident log confirms three fire crews attended The Decks on Tuesday, where they found “a fire on a hob in a second floor flat”.

The log added: “Two firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, entered the flat and used a hose reel jet to extinguish the fire. The crews were detained at the scene for around one hour.”

However, a spokesperson for Scanlans denied there had been a fire, saying: “A plastic tub was left on a hob whilst the occupier of the flat in question went to the shops. There was no fire.

“The plastic melted and subsequently caused smoke to set off the communal alarm system. The fire alarm is remotely monitored and led to the fire service being called to attend. All communal equipment operated and worked as it should.

“While Lock 6, 7 and 8 fall short of the 18-metre height eligibility threshold, the applications are still processing, and we will inform all leaseholders once we have received further information from the Building Safety Fund.”