THIS FRIDAY marks two years since the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, and local residents and firefighters are furious that no lessons have been learned after another fire engulfed six floors of a tower block in Barking, east London on Sunday.
Once again, flammable cladding fuelled the rapid spread of the fire, but this time the cladding was made of wood!
In the weeks leading up to this latest fire, which broke out at 3.00pm and destroyed twenty flats, the residents’ association had demanded that fire risks at De Pass Gardens, Barking, be investigated.
Fortunately, no one was killed, but a man and a woman were treated for smoke inhalation.
About 100 firefighters worked for more than two hours to subdue the blaze, which was extinguished at 6.00pm.
Shockingly, like the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, no central fire alarm rang and cladding played a role in the spread of the blaze.
Peter Mason, chair of the Barking Reach residents’ association, said he had contacted the builder, Bellway Homes, back in May to ask for a fire risk investigation into the wooden balconies.
Mason said he felt ‘gut-wrenched’ by the fire, adding that people had lost their homes and possessions and are in severe distress.
Resident Mihaela Gheorghe said: ‘We warned that one day a fire was going to happen. We raised several issues with the builder, the maintenance companies and the council about the safety of having all these wooden balconies.’
Andrew Boff, Tory London Assembly Member, said: ‘The most curious thing was there were no fire alarms. That’s been an issue for these buildings, the fire alarms don’t work which is why they have fire wardens sitting there at night – I think that’s unforgivable.’
Meanwhile, more than 100 Grenfell survivors and relatives are taking legal action in the US against three firms they blame for the fire.
The lawsuit will target the cladding maker Arconic, insulation maker Celotex and fridge supplier Whirlpool.
A successful action in the US could cost the firms involved tens of millions of dollars in damages.
The first phase of the public inquiry into the disaster heard expert evidence that a small kitchen fire broke out when a fridge caught fire igniting a PVC window fitting which, in turn, lit the highly flammable exterior ACM cladding, which was installed in 2016 as part of a £10m refit of the tower.
US lawyers representing Grenfell survivors and victims’ relatives are expected to file the lawsuit this week in Philadelphia under product liability law, which is meant to hold firms responsible for injuries caused by the goods they sell.
The state of Pennsylvania was chosen as the legal jurisdiction for the suit because both Arconic, which supplied the combustible ACM panels, and Celotex, which manufactured the insulation, have their US headquarters there.
At least two large US law firms are involved in the action.
Former firefighter James Fitzpatrick, who is Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London, said yesterday: ‘The government needs to move to improve the regulations in the housing sector because Grenfell was a catastrophic failure of government regulation, of architecture, of design, of inspection and enforcement of the regulation.
‘Someone needs to be put in charge of that whole diminution to ensure that people feel safe in their own homes.’