HUNDREDS of firefighters from fire brigades across the UK marked the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell disaster yesterday by participating in the silent walk organised and led by the bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell.
Pete Wolfenden, a firefighter who responded to the disaster, said: ‘It’s been five years since the Grenfell Tower fire and the thoughts and wishes go out from all London firefighters and fire control staff personnel to the survivors and friends and family of those who lost their lives in this appalling incident, the worst domestic blaze in living memory.
‘We also remember the brave and courageous members of all the emergency services who attended on the night and subsequent days, some of whom still suffer ill health and bear the mental scars of attending that traumatic incident.’
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: ‘Firefighters and the Grenfell community have a bond that was forged in tragedy, and the Fire Brigades Union stands in solidarity with all bereaved, survivors and residents.
‘Today, on the fifth anniversary of the fire, it is a time for reflection, and to remember all those who lost their lives, and the loved ones they left behind.
‘Their legacy lives on in the fight for justice. The community have faced constant denials from those responsible for Grenfell being covered in cladding as flammable as petrol.
‘They have faced a wait for criminal charges that continues to this day. They inspire us all with their relentless fight for justice and we continue to stand in solidarity with them every step of the way.’
The FBU has revealed that 221 firefighter positions have been cut since Grenfell. The figure comes after large cuts to the fire and rescue service in the run-up to Grenfell, with, for example, the UK losing over 11,000 firefighter roles between 2010 and 2017, which is nearly one in five, and represents a failure to change course after years of deep cuts prior to Grenfell.
Wrack said: ‘Despite being the worst UK domestic fire in living memory, the government is still failing to change direction, and take fire safety and the fire service seriously.
‘It is an insult to the people who lost their lives and it is an insult to the Grenfell community.
‘Unfortunately, none of this is a surprise. Central government let Grenfell be turned into a firetrap and has done nothing to fix the building safety crisis that has come to light since.
‘But nonetheless, we should not take our eye off just how heartless you have to be to see an incident like Grenfell and then continue on a path like this. They are gambling with lives.’