Grenfell fire investigation continues to be the scapegoat for London firefighters

From September 20 until November, the Grenfell Inquiry heard a deluge of criticism over the role of the London Fire Department (LFB) in tackling the Grenfell fire. Hell on the night of June 14, 2017, killed 72 people in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

The focus on the fire department is faced with testimonies involving profiteers among construction companies, suppliers and government officials in greed and mischief associated with the tower ‘renovation’ just before the tragedy .

Phase 2 of the investigation continues the disproportionate focus already manifested in Phase 1 on the efforts of a cash-strapped emergency organization, the LFB, to respond to a disaster created by widespread crime in community settings. business and politics.

Grenfell Tower burned down nine days after the fire on June 14, 2017 (AP Photo / Frank Augstein)

On October 13, Dr Paul Grimwood, senior fire engineer for the Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), testified that the LFB should not have been surprised by the spread of the fire outside the original compartment on the fourth floor and above. flammable facades. In Kent, he said, “We teach firefighters to expect failure. We expect a building to function the way it is designed to function.

How can an organization, let alone one of the critical emergency services the public count on, train for something it doesn’t expect to see?

Communication expert Professor Chris Johnson called LFB a “culture of getting by and not tackling the limitations of existing radio systems in concrete structures.”

The strength of the communication assemblies built into the firefighters’ breathing apparatus was a low watt to protect it from inflammation, but risk assessments could have been done to allow better communication in a situation that saw ” blind spots in the building “and an excess of radio messages. He asked why the purchase of new technical equipment had stalled – a strange question to ask an organization whose funding had been cut by 50 percent!

Steve McQuirk, who led the Greater Manchester, West Midlands and South Yorkshire fire departments, also argued that the coating’s behavior should not have come as a surprise at Grenfell. Inside the accommodation noted from his testimony that “On training more generally, Mr. McGuirk testified that LFB training did not equip officers to think on their feet during an incident.” He said that they “have been trained to apply policies and models and that is not the same as being able to develop a tactical plan” – with “compliance with the policy being the goal. “” McQuirk criticized the LFB for failing to appoint an officer in charge of the water supply and pressure, failing to evacuate the building earlier and the lack of alarm systems.

José Torero, senior professor of civil engineering at University College London and an expert who has written reviews of the 9/11 fire, said the course of the fire was predictable: the renovation and all that s ‘has happened over the past 10 years, I actually think there is a measure of incompetence at all levels.

Again, the LFB is criticized for not being aware of the criminal violations that had turned a safe building into a death trap. He said the LFB had “a complete disregard for technical skills and understanding of building performance”, was “not able to play the role society expects of it” and needed a “change. of drastic culture “.

Even though the LFB’s response could be characterized as inadequate, the testimony of October 28 gave ample explanation of how and why its performance on the tragic night was seriously compromised. Danny Friedman QC, representing mourners, survivors and tower residents, examined a long history of abuse by Labor governments that was at the heart of the disaster.

In 2001, a senior official for Labor Fire Minister Nick Raynsford told him that the fire policy “won’t take you too long.” Politics is one of benign neglect.

Labor reforms in 2004 abolished the Central Fire Brigade Advisory Council, allowing local fire departments to set their own goals. In 2010, the detailed inspection of the fire service was replaced by a weaker peer review system.

Already seriously weakened by Labor, under a Conservative government in 2013, the Fire Service College training agency was contracted out to Capita, with responsibility for switching fire between administrative departments. After a 50 percent reduction in staff, a senior official reported in the same year that the government’s fire safety team “no longer has access to the technical expertise needed” to produce an effective policy.

Friedman admitted that the firefighters were sorely understaffed. By improving the LFB’s response to the fire, he said, “it is now evident that better prevention, protection, policy and training would have done the trick. Austerity has banned these things … “

Referring to the conservatives’ policy of “localism”, he said this “amounted to an abdication of the state’s general human rights duties to establish an effective legal and regulatory framework to protect life.”

Professor Leslie Thomas QC opened by reading excerpts from 999 calls of the night. He said the “dismal” responses to them demonstrated “an absolute lack of awareness of the needs of vulnerable people”. He believed that “the cuts and deregulation” led to “inexperience, lack of training and lack of real-time knowledge in the control room, as well as highlighting poor communications to and from the control room. site of the incident “.

He noted a 2017 report from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) claiming that control rooms were at “breaking point” due to “a decade of failed government policy characterized by cuts, mergers and an underinvestment … We say this is relevant and relevant in light of the performance of the control room that night, working in a smaller room in Stratford [East London], without television, nothing to show them in real time what was happening… ”

Speaking on behalf of the firefighters union, Martin Seaward reported that the control room dealing with Grenfell was not capable of receiving more than six calls at a time from trapped residents. Between 1.24 a.m. and 1.30 a.m. on the evening of the fire, he received 20.

Friedman told the inquest that the tragedy was a “human rights catastrophe.” He argued that the violations included the “life rights of disabled and vulnerable residents” which were violated by the failure of the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) to develop individual evacuation plans. In addition, by deliberately limiting tenant interaction during the renovation, “consultation rights” were hampered as authorities “discriminated against active residents”.

The KCTMO, which managed the Grenfell Tower on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council, “joined in seeing this renovation as an act of municipal generosity,” Friedman said, “not a critical and expected investment. for a long time, but a gift. ” Such attitudes have led to “unacceptable secrecy”, while “with greater transparency, a compliance campaign could have been waged by residents to protect themselves”. Instead, they “were widely seen as an inconvenience to deal with, rather than human beings.”

Stephanie Barwise QC claimed that despite “sufficient funding” to carry out security work, general “insufficient funding for social housing” had created a “defeatist make and fix strategy even if it involved compromising security.”

Michael Mansfield QC, on behalf of a separate group of residents, described a “state of mind” that did not prioritize health and safety in the years leading up to the fire. He blamed this on the 2010-2015 Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron. But the previous Labor government was also to blame.

The investigation has dragged on for nearly four and a half years (1,605 days) since its announcement and its end is nowhere in sight. While everyone knows it was rampant profits and crime that led to the ‘catastrophe’ predicted by the people of Grenfell, no one responsible has been prosecuted and brought to justice.

Instead, the investigation is being used as the arena to solidify an agenda of almost exclusively blaming London’s firefighters. This masquerade must end and the Grenfell families must end all cooperation with the investigation. The culprit, to whom the investigation has granted immunity for anything he says, must be arrested and tried for his lucrative actions which resulted in the social murder of 72 people.


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