Non-compliant or faulty equipment, including flammable building cladding, was found to be responsible for the Grenfell tower disaster, according to expert reports released on Monday as part of the public inquiry into the fire in London in June 2017. Starting from a defective freezer on the fourth floor before spreading at high speed to the rest of the building, the fire left 72 people dead.
“The number of non-compliant elements observed shows the existence of a culture of non-compliance with Grenfell tower,” said one of the experts, Barbara Lane, commissioned in the public inquiry. “I did not find any evidence that members of the design or construction teams had determined the fire resistance of the materials…,” installed on the building.
The fire brigade, the building safety control teams or the management body of the building were also not informed of the performance of these materials, which does not comply with the regulations in force in the United Kingdom, according to the report.
The flammability of the coating used on the exterior of the building rendered the strategy of the firefighters, which initially required the inhabitants to remain confined in their apartments, to be inoperative, before finally evacuating the tower, starting at 2:00 am. However, the only emergency exit, via the internal staircase, was already impassable due to smoke levels as early as 1:40.
Barbara Lane also pointed to the poor performance of the fire doors, which “contributed significantly to the spread of fumes and fire in the common areas”, and may have “reduced the will of the inhabitants to escape”. In the building, 106 of the 120 apartment entrance doors had been replaced in 2011. None of them had been deemed compliant during the fire tests carried out during their installation.
An unknown number of doors in the common areas were not automatically closed to limit the spread of smoke and flames. This slowed down the progress of the firefighters and forced them to be equipped with breathing apparatus, limiting their intervention time with the residents.
In total, five expert reports were presented on Monday in the context of the public inquiry, which focuses on determining the causes of the tragedy, after hearing the relatives of the victims for two weeks.
“This is the beginning of a long road to justice,” said Grenfell United, the main association bringing together the former residents of the tower. The tragedy has destroyed our lives and our communities. What makes it even more difficult is to know that these deaths were preventable. “