Posts Tagged ‘London Fire Brigade’

Grenfell Six Months On – 2017

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Today it is four and a half years after the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower which began early in the morning of 14th June 2017, killing 72 people and injuring over 70 others. And many or all of those who escaped will suffer from both physical and mental effects of the night for the rest of their lives, as too will many of the firefighters and other emergency workers.

The pictures here come from the monthly slow and silent walk to demand justice and remembering those killed at Grenfell Tower six months after the fire on Thursday 14th December 2017.

The fire was an event waiting to happen, and warnings of the danger by residents and neighbours had been ignored by the building managers. The reasons the fire spread as it did were almost immediately obvious and rapidly published including the report by Architects For Social Housing, The Truth about Grenfell Tower which came out around five weeks later.

Rather than take action against those responsible, a public inquiry was set up, and began three months later. It’s main effect has been to delay justice, and its first sessions and report were largely devoted in trying to shift blame on to London Fire Brigade, whose efforts on the night had showed incredible determination and bravery.

Cuts in the London Fire Service made by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor had left them both understaffed and under-equipped, while earlier privatisation of some of the fire inspection and certification allowed dangerous conditions of buildings including this to go unchecked. The LFB did not have a suitable fire engine for dealing with the high rise fire, and one had to be brought from Surrey.

Governments of both parties over the years had weakened the regulations and inspections in the name of ‘cutting red tape’, responding to lobbying from the building industry, which allowed both highly flammable cladding to be use, and also for it to be incorrectly installed without essential safety gaps.

With tall blocks that meet proper safety standards a fire like this which began with a faulty refrigerator in a single flat would have been contained within that single flat. Many such fires have taken place and been contained, sometimes with most other residents of the building being completely unaware of them. Had Grenfell not been wrongly fitted with unsuitable cladding this would have been the case here, though there were also other problems particularly with the stairways and dry riser that made escape and fighting the fire much more dangerous.

Had the LFB been aware of the problems they were to face things would have been very different (and they would have called for the building to be shut down and the faults rectified.) But they arrived at the fire ignorant of the many defects, and were met with a situation which was for them unprecedented. With hindsight it is possible to say they could have made a decision to go against all their training on fires in tall blocks and try to evacuate the building earlier, but I think it unfair to blame them for not doing so.

The public inquiry continues, and has shed some more light on the details of the crimes that led to those 72 deaths, but seems mainly to have been taken up by those eager to shift responsibility from their actions to others.

Tonight, 14th December 2021, four and a half years later, another silent walk will take place, gathering at Kensington Town Hall at 6pm to start at 6.30pm. This is the first for 18 months due to Covid. The invitation from Grenfell United states:

“We invite you to join us on our Silent Walk in our campaign for Justice.

To show those responsible we are not going anywhere until we have real Change and Justice. So another Grenfell never happens again.”

Grenfell United

More about the walk in 2017: Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on


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Grenfell Solidarity March

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Grenfell was very much on our minds in the middle of June, around the second anniversary of the fire in which at least 72 people died, as it is now with the publication of the first part of the Grenfell Inquiry report. As well as the monthly silent march close to the tower on the actual anniversary, there was also a solidarity march the following day in Westminster.

Grenfell tower was built to resist the spread of fire. A fire in any single flat should have been confined to that flat for two hours, with a door designed to resist fire for at least an hour and a half. It had a single staircase that should have remained smoke free for two hours, allowing the safe exit of residents and for firefighters to climb up to fight the fire and rescue those living there.

Had Grenfell been properly maintained and kept as designed there would have been no deaths. The tower was designed so that the ‘Stay Put’ policy was safe, but the building had been altered in various ways – including but not only the addition of highly flammable and incorrectly installed cladding – which made it a death trap. Residents had pointed this out to before the fire, but their complaints had been ignored and those making them threatened.

Had the building been properly inspected these faults would almost certainly have become clear. But we had a government that considered safety regulations as “red tape” and saw inspections as an opportunity for private enterprise rather than public good. And the owners and managers of the building were interested in cutting costs and making it look more attractive to people on the outside rather than any concern about the safety of the residents.

The fire at Grenfell should have been a minor incident, quickly dealt with and causing no injuries of death, rather than the inferno we saw which killed so many. The inquiry suggestion that more could have been saved had the ‘stay put’ policy been abandoned earlier appears unsound. Had there been no such policy in place at the start of the fire more might well have escaped, but it is a general policy in place across all high rise residential buildings designed and built to the same standards as Grenfell and for good reason.

It’s failure at Grenfell was not the fault of the fire brigade, and by the time it was clear to firefighters that the building had failed the staircase, the only means of escape was filled with dense toxic smoke. Firefighters needed breathing apparatus and risked their lives to try and rescue those trapped inside. The inquiry report seems to deliberately contradict the evidence of experts including those who were actually there fighting the fire.

Many firefighters were at this march, including some who had risked their lives to save those inside Grenfell, but many more from around Britain. There are legitimate criticisms in the report about the equipment they had, though these are largely down to cuts made by the government and London Mayor Boris Johnson rather than the fire chiefs. The FBU had certainly warned that the cuts would mean more people dying and this event proved them right. Firefighters going into the building knew they were risking their lives – and as they went in were instructed to write their names on their helmets to make their dead or unconscious bodies recognisable. Thanks to their skill and training – and luck – no firefighters died and they rescued many.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I hadn’t expected much of the official report into the Grenfell fire, but was still shocked when details of it were released that is was so clear and determined an attempt to shift blame onto the London Fire Brigade. Monumental scapegoating is no way to get at the truth, and hindsight is always cheap.

Had the LFB known what people in the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council responsible for the cladding and the failure to properly maintain the building knew – and that the complaints by residents about fire safety had been ignored – or worse, they could be blamed for incorrect advice. But the council had deliberately hidden the truth about the building.

The Tory government too had played its part, cutting what it described as “red tape” over building regulations and allowing private companies to carry out essential safety inspections at cut price, which at best meant cutting corners and at worst simply not doing the job.

It was Boris Johnson as London Mayor who made sweeping cuts to the LFB, severely diminishing their capability to deal with fires such as this. Despite the number of high rise properties in London the service had to call on Surrey for an engine capable of dealing with a building of this height. Firefighters protested on the streets against the cuts to their capabilities driven by a Tory government and the Mayor.

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

You can read the comments of an experienced and now retired fire-fighter on the “Stay Put” policy, who states he has attended “dozens upon dozens of fires in high rise residential buildings.” These buildings are designed to contain any fire within one flat, and would normally burn themselves out even without the fire brigade turning up. It didn’t work at Grenfell mainly becuase the building had been covered by cladding which some have described as “like petrol“. But the LFB didn’t know that. SteveDude68’s post includes a telling photograph of a serious high-rise fire he was in command of tackling in Bow in July 2018, “much more serious at the outset (than Grenfell) but extinguished within 20 minutes. ” Flames and a huge plume of black smoke pour out of the windows of the one flat, but nothing from the rest of the tower. Contrast this with the pictures of Grenfell.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to get at the truth about the fire – and of course it didn’t. Architects for Social Housing released their report The Truth about Grenfell Tower around 5 weeks after the disaster, and little has changed since then. After a similar fire in Japan, those responsible were in court just over a month later.

I’ll end with a quote from a comment today from the Facebook group Grenfell – The truth is out there :

Please remember the names of those directly responsible for what happened:
RYDON
ARCONIC
EXOVA
CEP
KCTMO
Please remember that the residents warned the KCTMO for years about their concerns.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.