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Grenfell Tower Report: Fire Service’s ‘Stay Put’ Advice Cost Lives, Public Inquiry Concludes

Grenfell Tower Report: Fire Service’s ‘Stay Put’ Advice Cost Lives, Public Inquiry Concludes

The report does not blame individual firefighters, stating that they were faced “with a situation for which they had not properly been prepared or trained”.

Fewer people may have died in Grenfell Tower if the London Fire Brigade had not stuck so rigidly to its “stay put” policy and evacuated people instead, a public inquiry into the blaze that killed 72 people has concluded.

In a document spanning around 1,000 pages, Sir Martin Moore-Bick said there were “serious shortcomings” and “systemic” failures in its response to the fire.

 In a damning indictment of both the construction of the block and the authorities involved in the response, the report also concludes that the tower’s cladding failed to comply with building regulations.
 External walls “actively promoted” the spread of the fire, it says, pointing to “compelling evidence” that regulations were flouted during the refurbishment of the tower.
The long-awaited report into the biggest single loss of life in London since the Second World War is set to be formally published on Wednesday.
It delves into problems with the structure of the block despite the fact that this was not intended to be a part of phase 1 – with Sir Martin saying it would be an “affront to common sense” not to address this.

But it reserves most of its criticism for the London Fire Brigade (LFB), which it says failed to educate its firefighters in the dangers associated with combustible cladding systems.

It also failed to visit the block following the refurbishment to ensure the assessment of the risks it presented was accurate and up to date, the report adds.

 Condemning the brigade’s “stay put” policy, it says this meant dozens of people stayed inside the building rather than evacuating.

The report describes the measure as an “article of faith” within the LFB, “so powerful that to depart from it was to all intents and purposes unthinkable”.

It says: “Once it was clear that the fire was out of control and that compartmentation had failed, a decision should have been taken to organise the evacuation of the tower while that remained possible.

“That decision could and should have been made between 1.30am and 1.50am and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”

A total of 72 people were killed as a result of the fire in June 2017.

However, the report does not blame individual firefighters, stating that they were faced “with a situation for which they had not properly been prepared”.

 But it does criticise the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, Dany Cotton, for her evidence to the public inquiry last year, when she said she would change nothing about the LFB’s response. This was “remarkably insensitive”, it says.

The LFB has been defended by campaigners who argue that it is unfair to pin the blame on the fire service.

One unnamed source told The Independent: “While I welcome the fact that blame has been apportioned to so many different entities, it strikes me as odd that firefighters are named when the companies that produced the materials that led to the fire – such as Arconic, Cellotex, Rydon, RBKC and its so-called arms-length management organisation the TMO – are not.

“The report says a lot but I think it says too much about those who shouldn’t be blamed and too little about those who should be.”

Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington, who said the report was blaming those “sent to the scene of a crime, when the crime has already been committed”.

She added: “Five years of bad decisions, dodgy dealings, possible fraud potentially, all kinds of hideous decisions going on elsewhere – that built the bonfire around Grenfell. That building had total integrity for 40 years. It had functioned as it was built, and the stay put policy was 100 per cent accurate. The firefighters when they arrived had no idea what has happened, they hadn’t been told, that information wasn’t available. It’s completely obscene.”

 Sir Martin also highlights a “worrying failure of communication” between the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and the LFB, which meant there was an “unacceptable delay” between the first request for a dangerous structures engineer on the scene.

The report also flags up the fact that the RBKC tenant management organisation emergency plan was “15 years out of date” and that RBKC’s response to the fire was consequently “ineffective”.

The “principle reason” the fire spread across the 24-storey block so quickly was the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with a flammable polyethylene core, which “acted as a source of fuel”, Sir Martin says.

This was further accelerated by the insulation boards behind the cladding panels and the window surrounds, both of which had combustible materials, which has also been added during a refurbishment of the building several months before the fire.

In an analysis of how the blaze started, the inquiry states that it was an “electrical fault in a large fridge-freezer” in Flat 16, and ascertains that Behailu Kebede, the occupant of the flat, will be absolved of any blame for the inferno.

The report notes that the fire was “relatively minor” and typical of a common kitchen pan fire, stating that a blaze of this size was perfectly foreseeable”.

While some affected by the tragedy will welcome the findings of the report, others have described them as “rather hit and miss”.

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