Grenfell building plans ‘could not be found’ during fire

Grenfell building plans ‘could not be found’ during fire

AT THE inquiry into the fire in June 2017, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans for the tower were not able to be found in the lobby of the building.

When the inquiry last resumed, hearings focused ‘on the factual narrative of the events’, including ‘existing fire safety and prevention measures’, ‘where and how the fire started’, the ‘development of the fire and smoke’, and how they ‘spread from its original seat to other parts of the building’. Two extra panel members were added during the second stage, Prime Minister Theresa May changing her mind after ‘originally opposing’ appointing people with ‘the skills to examine the cultural and community reasons behind the fire’.

She also noted it was ‘on course’ to receive 400,000 documents, with 183,000 of 330,000 received thus far reviewed by the inquiry team. A ‘significant volume’ of documentation ‘will be disclosed’ during the first phase, and earlier this year, chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick appointed assessors to look at housing, local government and technical matters.

Two days of hearings took place dealing with ‘case management issues’ including proposed timetables, ‘matters concerning witnesses and the disclosure of evidence’. Sir Martin was also looking to produce an initial report explaining the ‘immediate cause and spread’ of the fire, as well as an ‘assessment of the evacuation process’.

Most recently, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. Now, after the inquiry resumed once more, The Guardian has reported on the testimony of Peter Johnson, Hammersmith station manager for London Fire Brigade (LFB), who stated that detailed design information about the tower ‘could not be found’ on the night of the fire.

Mr Johnson stated that the information should have been kept in a fireproof box in the lobby of Grenfell Tower, and he claimed he had had ‘repeated conversations’ with a council official to obtain the plans on 14 June 2017, as it would have shown the building’s layout and locations of utilities including gas pipes, fire vents and dry rise points. He added that he ‘never saw’ the plans, and that their absence ‘endangered firefighters and residents’.

The only information available to crews was a photograph of the tower on mobile data terminals, which showed it before the cladding was added, and Mr Johnson had two phone conversations with the ‘unnamed’ council official ‘but no plans appeared’. He added: ‘I do remember there were issues concerning the fire box, and the fire box not necessarily being fully stocked with what should be there. I believe that’s the information that we were passed on from the council: don’t worry about it, the plans are in the box.’

On being asked by lead counsel Richard Millett whether the lack of the plans affected search and rescue, he replied: ‘The plans themselves would have fed into the operational plan, it has a vital part and a vital role detailing fixed installations and detailing everything within the building. It would detail the pipeline of gas, of water, where electricity was – it was vital that we needed those plans.

‘I've not looked at the detailed plans of Grenfell, but I do know there was extensive building work that went on and, if something had changed – if, as you went higher, there were different layout of flats – that is something that would have definitely aided our crews. If we can’t isolate items, if we can’t operate smoke vents, if we can’t isolate dry risers where the doors are, that is potentially going to make the incident significantly worse.

‘If the incident is getting significantly worse, that is going to affect our crews, it is going to make response times significantly greater and it is going to put them in greater danger and the individuals inside the property in greater danger.’