FIRE doors in the Grenfell Tower failed, providing further evidence that this horrific tragedy could have been prevented. There is not a shadow of doubt that substandard fire doors, in combination with flammable cladding aided the rapid spread of the inferno which claimed the lives of so many men, women and children.
An investigation by the police has found that the fire doors could only hold back a fire for half the time they were designed to. Experts say fire doors are supposed to resist fire for 30 minutes. However, during tests, within 15 minutes the fire had burnt straight through. These fire doors were standard issue, meaning that there are now millions of people living in buildings fitted with the exact same fire doors, fearing for their lives.
The issue was so concerning that Tory Housing Secretary Sajid Javid was forced to make a statement in parliament: ‘I nevertheless fully appreciate that this news will be troubling for many people, not least all those affected by the Grenfell tragedy.’ Quite!
He then went on to insist that he did not think that the problem was ‘systemic’. Shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd told MPs he was ‘astounded’ by Javid’s claim, adding: ‘If this isn’t systemic, what assessment has been made of how many buildings are potentially affected by this, how many individual flats, how many people have fire doors that simply don’t do the job?’
Natasha Elcock, a survivor from the tower and a representative of the bereaved and survivors’ group Grenfell United, said: ‘It’s shocking – first the cladding and insulation, then the doors. Who knows what else is putting people’s lives at risk? The government should have improved regulations after previous fires.’
What is now obvious is that fire safety regulation has been thrown out of the window, to allow the massive housing companies, companies like the collapsed Carillion, to build high, fast and cheap – all to make a quick buck, charging sky-high rent for substandard flats.
Sprinklers, which the Fire Brigades Union verify are very effective in cooling down a fire, giving the fire brigade extra time to put the fire out, are not installed in every building. They are not even installed in the majority of buildings. In fact, in the majority of care homes, hospitals, council housing and even schools, sprinklers have not been fitted. Why? Because as far as the government and the councils are concerned, life is cheap.
Last week, we found out that the Tory party official fire safety advisor, Ken Knight, was the man who rubber-stamped the use of the flammable cladding responsible for the rapid spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower. Addressing Parliament, Labour MP Steve Reed said: ‘The industry estimates that some 800 blocks across the country have flammable cladding: 300 are council-owned and will eventually be made safe, although it is worrying that nine months after Grenfell only three have so far been completely re-clad, and around 500 blocks are privately owned, but the government are doing nothing to help the people living in them.’
Reed added: ‘After Grenfell, the government said that cladding with a polyethylene core, like that on Citiscape in my constituency, does not comply with the guidance.’ He then held up a certificate to the House of Commons: ‘The Prime Minister repeated that claim, yet I have here a certificate signed by Sir Ken Knight, chair of the government’s independent expert panel on fire safety and a director of the BRE Trust, that says that it does comply.’
On Wednesday evening, over a thousand local residents, supporters and youth took part in the ninth silent march through Kensington, beginning at the borough’s Town Hall. Shahin Sadafi, chair of United for Grenfell, told the rally: ‘This community is made up of the most resilient people I have met and we will make sure no stone is left unturned to get to the truth.’ The truth, however is being suppressed. Why were no sprinklers fitted to Grenfell Tower? Kensington and Chelsea council know the answer, and they have been accused of attempting to stop the truth coming out:–
Time and time again, Kensington and Chelsea council have been called on to release the minutes of their meetings in which installing sprinklers in the Grenfell Tower was discussed.
The council has now been threatened by Elizabeth Denham, the head of the Information Commission (ICO) to be taken to the High Court for repeatedly refusing to comply with Freedom of Information requests.
Those responsible for the Grenfell Tower must be held to account. Kensington and Chelsea council must be kicked out. The Tory government must be brought down and the companies responsible for installing the cladding and the fire doors must be dissolved. All the criminals responsible for the Grenfell Tower fire must be thrown in jail for what they have done.
The burning issue of fire safety is one that affects millions of workers and their families in tower blocks and council estates across the entire country. The entire working class must be mobilised in a general strike to bring this government down now before another tragic fire occurs.