What caused London fire: Warnings ‘fell on deaf ears’ since 2013; Grenfell Tower was never safe

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New Delhi | Updated: June 14, 2017 4:24:23 PM

London tower fire: Reports say that several warnings about the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower were given since 2013.

london fire, Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Tower collapse, Grenfell Tower fire, grenfell action group, gag, what caused london fire, what caused london tower fire, Kensington fire, Kensington building fire, london tower fire,London fire: Smoke billows from a fire that has engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London, Wednesday June 14, 2017. Fire swept through a high-rise apartment building in west London early Wednesday, killing an unknown number of people with around 50 people being taken to hospital. (AP)

London fire: The exact reason of the massive fire that engulfed the 24-story residential Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London on Wednesday is not yet known. However, reports say that several warnings about the risk of fire at Grenfell Tower were given since 2013. Had the London authorities acted earlier, Wednesday’s tragedy could have been averted.

The Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and hosted 120 homes, according to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The building was upgraded recently at a cost of $11 million and this work finished in May 2016. Grenfell Action Group (GAG), a community organization which was formed to oppose a nearby redevelopment project, had been warning about the fire risk at Grenfell Tower since 2013. The group had raised concerns over the testing and maintenance of firefighting equipment and blocked emergency access to the site with the authorities.

In a blog post today, GAG said, “We have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC.”

“All our warnings fell on deaf ears and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time,” it added.

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As early as in March 2013, the group had posted, “Many of our readers will recall the item we posted on 21st February quoting a passage from the most recent Fire Risk Assessment for Grenfell Tower…The passage we quoted from the assessment report was highly suggestive of a general failure to inspect and maintain fire safety equipment at Grenfell Tower, and was further suggestive of an ongoing culture of negligence at the TMO.”

While asking authorities to offer immediate apology to Grenfell resident, the group had said, “There is something seriously wrong with a bureaucracy that is incapable of reacting to serious negligence, affecting fire safetly in a densely occupied tower block, with any sense of urgency.”

The Group followed it up in another post in August 2013, saying, “We believe that the power surges at Grenfell Tower posed a major fire risk to many residents but this is not highlighted in the Committee report. Residents witnessed smoke coming out of light fittings and other electrical appliances, some of which literally exploded.”

The post mentioned details of the Fire Risk Assessment done at Grenfell Tower in November 2012. “The fire extinguisher in this building, the basement boiler room, the lift motor room, the ground floor electrical room plus other areas were out of test date according to the contractors label on the extinguishers. The last test date was on the 8th August 2011. Some located in the roof level areas had “condemned” written on them in large black writing with a last test date of 2009 or 2010,” the assessment report had said.

As concerns over the fire risk at Grenfell Tower was not addressed, the GAG posted in may 2013, “What on earth is going on at Grenfell Tower? We don’t know – and nor it seems does the TMO who are responsible for managing Grenfell Tower. What we do know is that there have been frequent and continuing power surges – sometimes accompanied by loss of water supply – that have caused great nuisance and distress to many residents and have destroyed a number of electronic appliances – computers in particular.”

In the same month, another post on GAG blog said, “It is very clear at this stage that the electrical supply to Grenfell Tower has been in a very dangerous condition for several weeks. It is equally clear that the authorities had been repeatedly warned of this but had failed to react with sufficient urgency and had failed to take adequate remedial measures.”

In November last year, GAG almost predicted a catastrophe at the tower. “Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

The posts suggest GAG had discovered the problems with Grenfell tower way back but no action was taken. On Wednesday, Associated Press reported a survivor as saying that there was heavy smoke in the hallway and he couldn’t find the stairs. He said that tenants had been complaining for years about issues at the building.

Many people are feared dead in the fire. “In my 29 years of being a fire fighter, I have never ever seen anything of this scale…”I am very sad to confirm that there have been a number of fatalities, I cannot confirm the number at this time due to the size and complexity of this building,” ,” London Fire Brigade Commissioner Dany Cotton told reporters.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, a structural engineer is checking the stability of the tower. “We have got a structural engineer, who in conjunction with my urban search and rescue advisor, is monitoring the stability of the building,” Cotton said, adding firefighters had only reached as far as the 19th and 20th floors of the building so far.

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