Today, as the public inquiry continued into the Grenfell Tower disaster that claimed so many lives just over a year ago, a fire broke out on the 16th floor of the neighbouring Whitstable House residential block, just a hundred metres or so from Grenfell.
The fire was covered by much of the national media – but this evening residents of the tower have alleged that the ‘dry riser’ water system that is supposed to feed firefighters’ hoses failed to work. They also allege other fire risks in the building have not been corrected.
According to residents, firefighters were forced to use an external water source in order to fight the blaze.
One Whitstable House resident told this blog:
You’d think more than a year after what happened at Grenfell the council would have everything in order in the neighbouring blocks to fight a fire. It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s not the firefighters’ fault, how could they know they weren’t going to work? It’s the council.
We’ve even still got defective fire doors that haven’t been replaced after all this time – yet the council referred to them in a letter they delivered to all the flats after the fire. The letter says our safety is important to them, but it doesn’t look that way if the emergency water system doesn’t work, does it?
The council just put up our service charge by over 80%. For what? The lifts were broken all weekend and there are issues with the windows – RBKC [Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea council] really don’t give a s**t about any of us.
The Fire Brigade did well to get the fire under control as quickly as they did but we’re very lucky nobody got hurt.
The council’s letter to residents can be seen below. Note that the council continues to tell residents that only those occupying a flat where a fire starts need evacuate.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted RBKC, which confirmed that it now manages the blocks on the estate after the ‘Tenants Management Organisation’ was removed following the fire. A spokesperson for the council denied that the dry risers had failed:
The dry riser in the building functioned, this was confirmed with us by London Fire Brigade. Regarding repairs, since the Council took back management of our housing in March this year, the backlog of outstanding repairs has been reduced from 5000 to 1000. We take all reports of repairs being needed very seriously.
Edit: some readers have mistakenly thought that the ‘dry riser’ system functioned properly, with water connected to it externally to feed up to the floor of the fire, so that residents simply misunderstood how it’s supposed to work. This is not what they claim, saying that no water came via the riser and that alternative routes were used to get water to the fire.
Commenting on the residents’ claims, a Grenfell Tower campaigner and neighbour told the SKWAWKBOX:
If this is true we’re basically one year on and nothing has changed. It’s ridiculous – I’m lost for words. If seventy-two people died and they haven’t learned anything, what can we do? Why do we have to keep fighting to be safe? Can you imagine what the people in that block felt when they heard there was a fire and then that the system didn’t work.
We’ve gone past angry but I’m not surprised. If they can’t even make sure the water system is working, it’s hard to imagine a greater level of callousness or arrogance. – just what are they doing? If they can’t do the job they need to admit it and get out.
Ten years ago, a young boy fell to his death from the 18th floor of Whitstable House and residents complained last year that the windows of the block had still not been made safe.
Whitstable House does not bear cladding of the type used on Grenfell Tower.
London Fire Brigade has not been reachable for comment in spite of several attempts via its 24-hour press line.
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