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Inquiry into Grenfell Tower fire finds flaws with fire brigade response

Tuesday, 29 October, 2019 - 17:22

There were serious errors made by Fire Brigade of London in handling the fire of Grenfell Tower, in which 71 people were killed in June 2017, according to a public inquiry whose finds were published today.

The disaster, Britain’s deadliest fire in a residential building since World War II, shocked British society and led to a lengthy investigation into how the densely populated social housing block went up in flames. In its first phase, the public investigation conducted by retired judge Martin Moore-Bick examined the sequence of events surrounding the fire on the night of June 14, 2017, including the response of the fire brigade.  In his report, Moore-Bick praises the “extraordinary courage and selfless devotion to duty” of firefighters at the scene, some of whom entered the burning building to help residents escape.

However, he criticised a series of institutional failures in the fire brigade. Specifically, he states that the training and preparations for an event such as the Grenfell fire were very inadequate and that leading to serious mistakes being made.

In particular, the report suggests that the commanders who led the operation enforced the “stand still” strategy for too long, whereby residents were told that they should remain in their apartments. The report concludes that there would have been fewer deaths if the decision to change strategy had been taken an hour or more earlier.

“The concept of ‘staying still’ had become a matter of faith within the London Fire Brigade so powerful that turning away from it was unthinkable for all intents and purposes,” the research said.

Other important problems, such as what went wrong in the design, maintenance and renovation of the tower, if the construction standards were met and if they were adequate, are part of a second phase of the investigation that has not yet been completed.

The first phase report, which was due to be published on Wednesday but has been leaked to several British media in advance, explains that the fire started due to an electrical failure in a refrigerator in a fourth-floor apartment.

The flames quickly engulfed the entire tower, mainly because it had been covered during a renovation with a type of lining made of flammable aluminium composite material that acted as a fuel source, Moore-Bick said.

A police investigation is being carried out, but no charges will be filed until the conclusion of the public investigation process.



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