William Eichler 21 May 2019

Firefighters blast Government for ‘complacency’ after the Grenfell fire

The Government has done nothing to ‘adequately prepare’ fire and rescue services for another Grenfell-type fire, a firefighter union has warned.

New findings, published by the Fire Brigades Union, have revealed that there is a postcode lottery of preparedness across the country.

The number of fire engines that would initially be sent to a high rise fire varies from area to area from as few as one up to seven.

On the night of the Grenfell fire, which killed 72 people, 40 fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze.

Fire and rescue services outside of London are so stretched, the FBU warns, that they would not be able to mobilise anywhere near that scale.

The union also accused Westminster fire minister Nick Hurd of ‘repeatedly’ misleading the public about fire services’ preparedness.

The minister claims that fire services are prepared for a Grenfell-type fire.

However, the FBU points out, only three of the 48 fire and rescues services outside of London have been contacted directly by the Home Office seeking information of their preparedness for such an incident.

A further eight have been contacted by the National Fire Chiefs Council and one by the Welsh government.

‘We’re shocked at the utter complacency of the fire minister,’ said Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary.

‘72 people died at Grenfell Tower, a fire for which London Fire Brigade had not planned. Yet the minister still does not grasp the severity, or even the basic details, of the risk across the country.’

The Fire Brigades Union called for a national review to understand the scale of failed compartmentation in residential buildings. Compartmentation is the principle whereby buildings are built divided into fire-resistant compartments.

They also urged the Government to come up with national standards for the pre-determined attendance – the number of firefighters and fire engines that would initially be sent – for fires in high-rise blocks.

‘It’s no longer possible to claim that fire like Grenfell is unforeseeable,’ said Mr Wrack.

‘Firefighters were placed in an impossible situation that night. But two years on, the Government still has not provided the planning and resources necessary to prepare firefighters for what are now completely foreseeable risks.’

‘Grenfell proved the UK Government’s utter complacency on fire safety,’ Mr Wrack continued.

‘We need robust national standards to make sure that the lessons from that night are applied everywhere.’

A spokesperson said the Government was ‘determined’ to ensure that the Grenfell Tower fire could ‘never happen again’.

‘Fire and rescue services have the resources they need and we are encouraged that the number of fire safety audits carried out on purpose-built flats of four or more storeys more than doubled to nearly 6,600 in 2017-18, compared with the previous year,’ they said.

‘We have banned combustible cladding and are fully funding its replacement on high-rise residential buildings in the private and social housing sectors. We have also accepted all of the principles of the independent Hackitt Review and will be consulting on proposals ahead of legislation.’

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