ASTONISHED residents at a Bournemouth block of flats have been told to remove fire extinguishers from communal areas - as a way of improving fire safety.

The recommendation has been branded "the nanny state gone mad" by residents of Avon House on the West Cliff.

But an independent fire risk assessment ruled the extinguishers were a hazard in untrained hands and could encourage people to try and tackle a blaze themselves rather than leaving the building.

The recommendation has also been supported by Dorset Fire and Rescue Service.

Mike Edwards, one of the directors of Avon House in West Cliff Road, said: "I was absolutely staggered to discover the fire extinguishers were to be taken out. It's ludicrous, like Britain has gone mad.

"Anyone with an ounce of common sense would know how to use a fire extinguisher.

"My main concern is that anyone trapped high up in a building has at least always had a fire extinguisher to help them. Now they will have nothing. They will have no chance."

He said other blocks in the area, including the 13-storey high Admirals Walk, had also either been asked to remove their extinguishers or already done so.

When the Daily Echo contacted Hamilton Townsend, which acts as managing agents for Avon House, the company said there was a statutory requirement to have fire risk assessments carried out by qualified assessors.

It confirmed that at several properties, the recommendation was to remove extinguishers because residents have no specific training on how to handle them.

Dorset Fire and Rescue's protection policy manager Pete Whittaker agreed with this stance. "If the fire extinguishers in the common areas are for the use of the homeowners, this suggests that they would have to leave their flats to pick one up and then return into their homes to tackle the fire," he said.

"This is contrary to advice to Get out, stay out and call the fire service out' so is not a practice we would encourage. We must also point out that the decision whether or not to remove those fire extinguishers should be made by the responsible person in each premises on a risk-assessment basis."