Rumours have abounded about compromised safety measures and the spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower, from gas pipes in the stairwell to emergency exits closed because of the proximity of the Kengington Aldridge Academy building to the base of the block.
Now the SKWAWKBOX can reveal two shocking aspects of the disaster, confirmed by concerned members of the London Fire Brigade crews who fought the blaze.
Hoses were turned off
A firefighter told this blog that the initial refrigerator fire was extinguished by firefighters inside the apartment, but had spread through the wall to the outside of the block. This much is already common knowledge.
What is not known, however, is that firefighters had turned off the hose they had trained on the outside wall of the block.
This may sound damning, but is in fact not uncommon. The usual practice in a tower fire is to train a controlling hose onto the building above the fire, to prevent spread to the upper floors.
However, another standard practice in certain situations is to turn off the hose, in case the water jet drives burning materials further into the block, causing the fire to spread. This was ordered at Grenfell, following a standard protocol.
In any normal situation, this would have been the correct procedure to follow. However, with the highly flammable skin of the building, the fire at Grenfell was anything but ‘normal’ – but by the time firefighters could see what was happening through the steam and smoke, it was too late and the fire had begun its rapid climb and spread up the outside of the building.
The escape stairwell
A firefighter told the SKWAWKBOX:
Grenfell only ever had one single protected shaft top to bottom, but the ground floor final exit was also complimented by another two exit routes near the bottom into the greater estate (G) at a level above the basement car park (B) on the lift prior to the refurbishment.
For security reasons these had been made into a sort of conservatory area where it was no longer possible to gain egress to the outside and the rest of the estate.
No blame attaches to firefighters for following orders based on protocols that could not have taken into account the unprecedented circumstances. But the closure of two exits from the building, leaving only a single working exit, would appear to be a serious compromise of proper fire-safety planning.
Both must be taken into account by the inquiry if the full circumstances of the blaze and its human cost are to be properly understood – and if procedures are to be improved for future use.
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