The devastating fire that blazed through Grenfell Tower earlier this year, eerily echoes the 2009 Lakanal House fire which left 6 dead in a frightfully similar series of events.
At least 80 lives have been lost in the Grenfell tower fire, with numbers expected to rise as many more are still unaccounted for, with children amongst those still missing.
“We are still wrapping postwar high-rise buildings in highly flammable materials and leaving them without sprinkler systems installed, then being surprised when they burn down.” — Sam Webb
According to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) “For life safety, new residential blocks over 30m high must be fitted with sprinklers to meet Approved Document B standards”. In other words buildings which are 30m or more in height, literally require sprinklers to reduce the risk of death in the case of a fire.
Grenfell Tower did not only not have a sprinkler system installed but also stands almost 70m tall.
BAFSA Sprinkler Facts:
Losses from fires in buildings protected with sprinklers are estimated to be 1/10 of those in unprotected buildings.
In buildings fully protected by sprinklers:
- 99% of fires were controlled by sprinklers alone
- 60% of fires were controlled by the spray from no more than 4 sprinklers
Despite lessons that should have been learned from previous disasters, in addition to recommendations from BAFSA, coroners and a host of other fire safety experts, sprinkler instalment is still only a recommendation and not a legal requirement. That is, all high-rise buildings are not bound by law to be retrofitted with sprinklers. Former housing minister Gavin Lewis stated that it is not the “responsibility” of the government to pass such a law.
This blatant disregard for human life did not go unnoticed by fire experts and those in the public domain alike, some of whom took to Twitter to highlight the issue. One of the most outspoken on the topic was award-winning artist and writer Akala, who lives in the area.
These strong opinions seem to be shared across the country. MP David Lammy even went so far as to state that:
“Grenfell Tower fire is ‘corporate manslaughter’ and arrests must be made”.
There is a strong sense that someone must be held accountable for the disaster which claimed innocent lives and destroyed families in what seems to have been an entirely avoidable event. Grenfell Tower, lacked the structural robustness to prevent a fire. This is not an isolated incident, many tower blocks across the country fail to meet fire prevention regulations and are retrofitted with cheap, lightweight but extremely combustible rain clad panels.
“contractors used the cheapest aluminium coated panels, which are reportedly outlawed in the United States over safety fears, as part of a £10m regeneration of the tower block last year.” — ES
Many of these buildings happen to house some of Britain’s poorest families.
How many more people must die before the preservation and safety of human life is treated as a priority?
“We are in one of the richest spaces not just London but in the world. Repeated requests were ignored. There is no way that rich people would be living in a building without adequate fire safety.”
“Everybody I spoke to couldn’t hear alarms, there was no sprinkler system…”
How many devastating fires does it take to teach a Tory a lesson?
Despite the Labour Party’s efforts to pass an amendment designed to ensure all rental properties were “fit for human habitation”, opposition from the Conservative Party ensured that they did not succeed.
Theresa May’s new Police and Fire Minister, Nick Hurd, was among the careless opposing group, all of whom happen to be private Landlords themselves making additional income from property.
However, both the Conservatives & the Labour Party have failed to make the necessary changes needed to improve fire safety regulations.
With the new Conservative-DUP government, can Britain expect the health & safety of working-class residences to be a priority in an increasingly gentrified London?
L.U.S.H. Talks Janet Browne Special Thanks to Paris Hyman for contributions https://lushtalks.co.uk Instagram & Facebook firstname.lastname@example.org