Home | Editor's Choice | Grenfell Tower Fire Catastrophe Could Have Been Prevented, But Officials Dropped the Ball

Grenfell Tower Fire Catastrophe Could Have Been Prevented, But Officials Dropped the Ball

fire

Grenfell Tower waited — in essence, a tinderbox keen to be put alight — until the apparent right moment early Wednesday morning, when flames promptly engulfed the 1,000-unit building, killing six, and injuring scores.

fire
Image: Press Association

But it could have been prevented.

In fact, London officials apparently possessed renovative guidelines excoriating the tower’s lack of compliance with imperative fire safety regulations — for at least four years.

According to The Mirror, Prime Minister Theresa May’s new chief of staff — like many in a succession of 72 housing officialssat on a report condemning high rise complexes had numerous vulnerabilities to fire.

U.S. surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted The Mirror article with the caption,

“The idea that the #GrenfellTower tragedy was preventable is shattering. The neglect here is just inhuman.”

Indeed, with shocked eyewitness testimony still pouring out in major news outlet headlines, any failure to follow recommended improvements to Grenfell Tower’s fire safety preparedness could be considered verily criminal negligence.

The Mirror reports:

“A former Chief Fire Officer and secretary of a parliamentary group on fire safety today revealed successive ministers had had damning evidence on their desks since 2013 and nothing had happened.

“And the Labour MP who chairs the group said ministers had ‘sat on’ the recommendations for almost four years.

“Gavin Barwell, who was housing minister until losing his seat in last week’s election, promised to review part B of the Building Regulations 2010, which relate to fire safety, but the review never materialised.”

Residents of the highrise complex insisted no smoke alarms or fire detectors sounded at the briskly accelerating inferno — which eyewitnesses affirmed — with one unidentified woman so desperate, she tossed a baby from a ninth- or tenth-story window to save its life.

Ronnie King, honorary Administrative Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fire Safety and Rescue and a former Chief Fire Officer, had “strongly recommended” the installation of fire suppression systems and sprinklers in thousands of high-rise structures similar to Grenfell Tower across Britain.

King, noting those deficiencies presumably also had occurred at Grenfell, recalled,

“We were strongly recommending this because the fire at Lakanal House spread within four minutes and came into the flat above and then went on to kill six people, regrettably.”

In 2009, an investigation by the coroner into a deadly blaze at Lakanal House — which also took six lives — found a lack of assessments gaging fire risk coupled with a failure to meet to fire resistance standards for the structure’s exterior panels facilitated the tragedy; but recommendations to improve those conditions in all structures of a similar nature subsequently languished.

Last January, then-Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce, announced a proposed amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill, stating,

“New clause 53 is about safety and would introduce a requirement for landlords to undertake electrical safety checks. Many organisations from across the sector support the measure, such as the Local Government Association, the London fire brigade, Shelter, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, British Gas, Crisis and the Fire Officers Association. They have all given their support in the past to measures that will see the introduction of mandatory electrical safety checks.

“It is estimated that electricity causes more than 20,000 house fires each year, leading to about 350 serious injuries and 70 deaths across the UK. Carbon monoxide, gas leaks and other fires and explosions cause fewer deaths and injuries, with 300 injuries and 18 deaths—these risks remain serious and it is right that we should continue to monitor them, but that shows what is at stake as regards electrical fires in the home.”

That measure did not pass.

“I wouldn’t have expected fire to spread like that if there had been automatic fire sprinklers installed,” lamented King, the fire safety official.

As bitter fingers hastily pinned blame on officials, the entire Tory Party, and general apathy to policy, a report surfaced calling into question the Grenfell Tower’s landlord.

According to the Canary, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), landlord for the hopelessly charred structure, had been issued multiple legal enforcement notices over fire safety resultant from a previous conflagration in a similar building, Adair Tower.

KCTMO had been ordered to bring both Adair and Hazelwood Towers into compliance with critical fire codes after the former experienced a major fire in October 2015 — in which some 50 people had to be rescued by the fire brigade.

Residents had apparently been well aware of the dearth in preparedness at Grenfell, and much to their consternation — despite acknowledging limited improvements — complained in a residents’ association blog post in November 2016,

“It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia…”

Complaints on the topic stretched well beyond last year, however, as another blog post from 2013 stated,

“[An external contractor] provide[s] [all fire safety equipment]. The last test date was on the 8th August 2011. Some located in the roof level areas had ‘condemned’ written on them in large black writing with a last test date of 2009 or 2010. This seems to indicate that monthly occupier inspections are not being carried out.”

Incidentally, although the structure has indeed been severely compromised by the monstrous fire, Grenfell Tower remains standing — even after some 20 hours in flames.

Who will and should bear primary responsibility for fatal failings in the 24-story Grenfell Tower residence might be months or even years from determination — in the meantime, families and loved ones have been left utterly bereft of a logical reason for this stunning tragedy.

Whatever the official determination of blame, accountability appears to rest with government and private officials — for whom cost and nuisance apparently trumped the inherent value of human lives.

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Contributed by Claire Bernish of The Daily Sheeple.

Claire Bernish is a staff writer and reporter for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up – follow Claire’s work at our Facebook or Twitter.

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