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Grenfell fire: London police investigating fire brigade's 'stay put' advice

Police are investigating the London Fire Brigade's "stay put" advice during the Grenfell Tower fire last year, in whi...

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 6:54 PM
Updated: Jun 7, 2018 6:54 PM

Police are investigating the London Fire Brigade's "stay put" advice during the Grenfell Tower fire last year, in which 72 people were killed, the Press Association reports.

The London Metropolitan Police will determine whether the advice to residents to stay in their apartments while the blaze tore up the tower's 24 floors broke health and safety laws, the Met's Det. Supt. Matt Bonner said.

"The LFB would, as any other organization 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," Bonner told reporters Thursday, the Press Association reported.

The fire brigade's response to the June 14 fire last year has come under increased scrutiny, as a public inquiry into the event is underway. Fire safety expert Barbara Lane expressed concern Monday that it took nearly two hours for the fire brigade to change the stay put policy, even though it had "effectively failed" after around half an hour.

Britain typically uses a passive approach to fire response, in which firefighters try to compartmentalize a blaze, while residents stay in their apartments, usually fitted with doors and materials that protect them from smoke and fire outside.

In a report submitted to the inquiry, Lane found several issues in Grenfell Tower that would have prevented firefighters from carrying out their response effectively, including a non-functioning fire lift, a ventilation system that "did not operate as intended," and a non-compliant fire main that prevented more water getting up to higher levels.

She also found that all the apartment doors, including more than 100 replaced in 2011, were non-compliant with fire safety regulations, and that stairway fire doors had not been replaced since 1972 and did not meet current benchmarks.

Some of these failings meant corridors and stairways were filled with smoke and fire, hampering both evacuation and response.

The material used to clad the tower was later found to be highly combustible and allowed for the fire's rapid spread upwards.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) and the Fire Brigades Union both defended their response on Thursday in the inquiry.

A lawyer for the LFB, Stephen Walsh, urged the inquiry to keep in mind that the firefighters "will have been wholly unaware of defects in the fabric of the building from a fire safety perspective."

The union's Martin Seaward said while there was concern over the stay put policy, there was "no obvious and safe alternative strategy" to deal with the fire and asked the inquiry not to be swayed by the "benefit of hindsight."

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