GRENFELL FIRE DISASTER EXPOSES WIDER FIRE SAFETY FAILINGS

The firefighters’ union FBU has said a TV documentary on the failings that contributed to the Grenfell tower block tragedy should throw the focus onto a wider malaise that has seen fire safety nationwide undermined.

A Channel Four Dispatches documentary aired on 18 February claimed up to 55 people who died in the Grenfell fire were subject to advice to stay put in the building after the fire was raging out of control.

It also highlighted claims that firefighters have been given insufficient training about mass evacuating entire residential towers, despite recommendations from a coroner following a previous high-rise fire. Commenting on the programme, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “It’s absolutely right that the bereaved, residents and survivors ask the difficult questions and we are not against being asked these; absolutely no person or organisation should be immune from criticism. We are united in our quest for justice over the tragic events of 14 June 2017.”

He added: “It is unfortunately true that nobody had planned for a fire like the one that unfolded at Grenfell, and without sufficient planning, and the procedures and training which would follow, firefighters were placed in an impossible situation, from start to finish. Firefighters were also unable to implement normal safety and operational procedures due to the spread of the fire up and around the building, and as a result, placed themselves at great risk.”

The union leader said the scope of the inquiry into the disaster was far too narrow and risked missing overlooking the main culprits. “From the outset of the Inquiry, I along with others warned that the terms of reference could shut down or delay the real investigation of the underlying causes of the disaster. The delay of phase two until late this year or even 2020, sadly confirms these fears and is a blow to anyone seeking justice. The building owners, the local authority, the politicians, their advisers, the very people who have allowed public safety to be undermined over decades, need to be held accountable.”