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Grenfell report condemns fire brigade for 'serious shortcomings'

15 November 2019

THE INQUIRY into the Grenfell Tower fire has published its phase one report, which criticises London Fire Brigade (LFB) for "serious shortcomings" and systemic failures in its response.

The report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick states that fewer people would have died in the fire had LFB taken certain actions earlier. It is also critical of the implementation of a stay put policy, The second phase of the report will focus on the wider circumstances of the fire, including the design of the building.

The Fire Bridages Union has reacted angrily to the report, general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We strongly refute the report’s assertion that it would have been possible or safe to evacuate more than 150 people via a narrow smoke-logged stairwell with just 30 firefighters. There is no evidence to suggest that this was possible. It is particularly alarming that the Inquiry failed on this issue to seek the advice of its own expert advisor on firefighting matters. There is therefore currently no way of knowing if evacuation could have saved more lives.

“We are disappointed that the report makes no reference to the vast additional resources needed to implement its recommendations. It’s time for government to provide national leadership, to properly fund and coordinate fire and rescue services and ensure these urgent matters of public safety are addressed.

“The true culprits of the fire are those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, who gutted the UK’s fire safety regime, who ignored the warnings from previous fires, and who did not hear the pleas of a community worried for their safety. We will be watching phase two of the Inquiry closely to ensure they are held to account. But we cannot wait for years for the Inquiry to conclude. Change is needed now.”

Fire Protection Association, managing director Jon O’Neill believes there needs to be a refocus of building regulations to consider building resilience. Enforcement should consider that under the right circumstances some fire protection systems in place may fail to do their job, and there should be wider precautions for when these instances occur. 

O’Neill commented: “The inquiry confirms the fire, which started in Flat 16 on the fourth floor, was predictable - but the size of this tragedy was completely avoidable. The Fire Protection Association continues to press for a ban on combustible materials and the installation of sprinklers and high integrity detection and evacuation systems in all high risk occupancies, regardless of height.”

Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) CEO Niall Rowan added: “London Fire Brigade and other fire services must be confident of their procedures to realistically evaluate the effectiveness of stay put and must be equipped with an adequate knowledge of the structure of buildings to enable them to do this. This will require owners and responsible persons to regularly undertake audits of compartmentation to ensure passive fire protection systems that combine to create this vital life safety system are correctly specified, installed and maintained."