LFB to be investigated over Grenfell stay put
LONDON FIRE Brigade (LFB) is facing a police investigation by Scotland Yard over the stay put policy at Grenfell Tower during last year’s fire.
The Guardian reported that LFB and its senior officers are facing the investigation, over the stay put policy which it says ‘resulted in Grenfell Tower residents being told to remain inside their homes as the tower block blazed’. In turn, detectives are said to be ‘attempting to establish whether the order could have breached health and safety law’, with Detective Superintendent Matt Bonner leading the investigation into the fire.
He stated that 36 companies and organisations involved in the ‘construction, refurbishment, maintenance and management’ of the building were ‘now of particular interest’, with only Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council and its tenant management organisation ‘known to be under investigation as corporate manslaughter suspects’. He added that any prosecution for senior LFB officers over stay put ‘could most likely fall under health and safety legislation’.
Mr Bonner commented: ‘The LFB would, as any other organisation involved, have an obligation to conduct their activity in a manner that doesn’t place people at risk. It doesn’t mean that at the moment they have or they haven’t, but that’s where the legislation is most likely to arise if that was an eventuality.’
The inquiry into the fire recently resumed, and was told that fire commanders overseeing the response had ‘no obvious and safe alternative strategy’ beyond telling residents to stay put, with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) telling the inquiry that commanders and firefighters were left in an ‘impossible situation’.
It added that the building’s refurbishment had resulted in it becoming a ‘highly combustible death trap’ that LFB ‘lacked training and procedures to tackle’, and firefighters were placed in ‘intolerable positions’ fighting the fire. They were also ‘unaware of any defects caused by refurbishment’, with 579 firefighters and control room staff interviewed so far by the police and 250 to be interviewed.
Louis Browne QC, counsel for the Fire Officers’ Association, added: ‘Simultaneous evacuation of residents in the event of fire is not factored into the design of buildings such as Grenfell Tower. That is evident from the fact that there is no common fire alarm and the only means of escape was a single stairwell. The stay-put policy is therefore a building design principle and is not a creation of the fire service.’
In its own response to the announcement, the FBU’s general secretary Matt Wrack added: ‘Grenfell firefighters were dealing with an unprecedented situation that nobody had prepared for and that they should never have had to face. Every decision made during that time will come under scrutiny in the inquiry. We will not pre-judge.
‘But this should not be allowed to divert attention from the real cause of the level of destruction which is that the fire safety measures within the building were utterly inadequate and completely failed. A key factor in this is that the government and local council gave priority to saving money over protecting people.’