So far the death toll in the Grenfell Tower Fire is 79… with hundreds of people displaced, grieving and not having a clue of what is going to happen to them in the future. The fire at Grenfell Tower Block should NEVER have happened.
And what do we know now… the cladding used to make the building more aesthetically pleasing was NOT Fire resistant.
From way back in 2009 the residents were complaining about the standards of the housing and the concerns they had with regards to the conditions and safety of the building they were living in. The Financial Times reports:
The London council that owns the Grenfell Tower block destroyed by a devastating fire rejected recommendations from as far back as 2009 that it needed to exert tighter control of work done by contractors on its housing stock.
The recommendations were contained in a highly critical independent report by Maria Memoli, a solicitor. Ms Memoli was commissioned to write her report because of the volume of complaints from residents against Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation — the body set up by Kensington & Chelsea council to manage its housing stock.
That is 8 years ago and it has now taken the lives of at least 79 people to make people sit up and think.
But the residents were not the only people complaining about building materials, not just at Grenfell Tower but all tower blocks.
The FPA (Fire Protection Association) were complaining about materials used and asking Governments and Councils to tighten up their building controls, according to a Guardian article dated the 16th June.
It has taken the lives of 79 people for Government authorities, both Labour and Conservative to sit up and listen. In 2009 when this report by Maria Memoli was written the Government in power were Labour… and they failed to act. From 2010 we have had a Coalition Government of Lib/Dems and Tories and they failed to act. From 2015 we have had a Tory Government and they have failed to act. All the main political parties have failed to act. Sub-standard materials were being used on building and to be perfectly honest nobody gave a bat-shit about it. They didn’t care who made money and who didn’t and no Government in Power cared in the people living in high-rise buildings were safe or not.
It has taken the lives of 79 men, women and children for action to be taken. And now people are being moved from their homes, and cladding on all high-rise buildings is being tested and every piece of cladding so far being tested has FAILED fire-retardant tests. Each piece of cladding tested has now turned every building, it has been used on, into a potential death-trap.
High rise buildings are made of concrete… they are supposed to be designed so that should a fire happen in one flat.. the fire can be contained to that flat. But concrete doesn’t look nice does it? It doesn’t look pretty.. so lets shove some cladding on it.. any old cladding will do… the cheaper the better… remember we all have profits to make and if a council can get a project done for £1.4 million cheaper… all the better they can use that excess money on something else. For the sake of about £5-£10K on the project costs of Grenfell tower they could have used cladding that WAS fire-retardant… and today 79 people would be going about their lives and families and residents would not be homeless or in grieving for a family member or friend they have loved and lost.
So Who Is To Blame?
It is simple these are the people who are to blame.
- Every Government who was in power and failed to listen to the FPA
- The contractor for using materials that he knew were not fire-retardant even though they were there was a grey line the contractor was crossing.. knowing full well that the materials they were using would not protect the residents in a fire but were technically within building regulations. Especially knowing that this type of cladding is BANNED in Germany and the US as well as other countries.
- Every council member who over-saw the project and allowed non-fire retardant materials to blame and signed off the project as completed.
- The Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) for not listening to the concerns of its residents.
So What Is Being Done?
So far we know that cladding is being ripped off of buildings and being tested and is failing those tests. We also know that Camden Council has evacuated at least four of its tower blocks in the Chalcots Estate in North London over safety concerns. And we know according to Sky News… some 200 residents are refusing to leave their flats.
Now don’t get me wrong but this must be horrendous for all people involved… a) knowing you are living in a potential fire trap and b) you will be in limbo moving from place to place until the problem is rectified and your home is safe to return to. But have those 200 people thought about what would happen if there was a fire? Have they thought about the fire-crews who would be risking their lives trying to rescue them as well as tackling a blaze?
Chief O’ Hallorhan: You know we were lucky tonight. Body count’s less than 200. You know, one of these days you’re gonna kill 10,000 in one of these firetraps, and I’m gonna keep eating smoke and bringing out bodies until somebody ask us… how to build them.
The Towering Inferno
What is happening is harrowing, but come on let us put some perspective on this, councils are now doing what they should have done in the first place, they are putting the lives of their tenants above everything. They are making sure the people living in these buildings are safe. They are removing cladding that is not fit for purpose and they are doing the best they can with a bad situation to start with. Even though I am in sympathy with all the residents, personally I find it bloody selfish of those residents who are now refusing to leave their homes… because not only are they putting themselves in danger they are putting the crews of every fire-truck in danger should a fire start in one of those tower blocks. We know from Grenfell it was a faulty fridge that started the blaze and every apartment has electrical items plugged in.. items that could easily go wrong and cause a fire.
Only driving around out area.. I look at high-rise buildings and I see cladding… cladding to make the building more cosmetically pleasing. And do you know what… it frightens me to death to think that a building material that is being used on all high rise buildings doesn’t meet fire regulations. That our hospitals are clad with materials that could combust easily.
So Who Will Be Paying?
And it isn’t just high-rise buildings that are clad… hospitals are clad… schools are clad, possibly the buildings you work in are clad. This is going to cost millions if not billions, what with public enquiries, compensation for victims, solicitors, rectification of shoddy workmanship. This is going to cost an arm and a leg for something that cost £5-10K extra per building in the first place. And who is going to pay for this in the end… not the companies, not the councils, but us the normal people, the taxpayer, the victims. Councils if forced to pay will cut budgets on other services and increase our council tax… Building contractors, will probably just diversify assets into creating another company and then go bankrupt to avoid paying the costs. Even fines imposed by courts will never cover the cost of putting this right. And no amount of money in the world will ever compensate families who’ve lost loved ones.
Even if people are sent to prison and charged with corporate manslaughter… it doesn’t bring back the lives of 79 people who should never have been put in harm’s way in the first place… Perhaps before we go any further.. our Government needs to listen to the FPA and they need the FPA to approve every building material used. Perhaps the FPA should be the body that is given more powers and more funding in order for them to ensure that all buildings meet stringent fire standards and oversee the final signing off of building safety.
After all it is the fire-brigade that have to deal with the aftermath and the devastation what fire causes. Below is a Facebook Post written by one of the fire-fighters attending Grenfell Towers… please read… it will definitely open your eyes up to the life of being a fire-fighter.
Two floors later we find another crew making their way out. One of them is carrying a little girl. I hand off my casualty to the firefighter who has a free set of hands, please take him out I shout, we’ll be right behind you.
I turn to go but with that he hands me something I’d not seen initially.
Im handed a firefighters helmet!
This can’t be good!!
Why does he have this?
Where is the firefighter it belongs too!
As I turn round and go back up one turn of the stairs I see him.
He’s missing his helmet but he’s with my BA partner.
He’s got no helmet and no breathing apparatus.
Are you ok? Where’s your BA set!?
He’s given it to a casualty.. he’s coughing as he tells us, he’s delirious from the heat and smoke.
Still he tries to help carry the casualty! Helping others is still his first thought.
Our fire-fighters.. our heroes, the people who risk all to save those of us who are affected by the greed of profits by companies and councils, as in the case of Grenfell towers.