As the ruins of a student block still smoulder in Bolton following another catastrophic cladding fire and more than two years of government inaction after the Grenfell Tower blaze, a serving firefighter has written to the SKWAWKBOX about the significance of the events, on condition of anonymity:
The memories of the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower will be etched in our minds forever. It is now over two years since that tragic fire so the sight of the firefighting operations overnight at a student residential block will have brought these horrific memories to the forefront of our minds once again.
The scenes of fire-ridden cladding falling and fire spreading rapidly across the outside of a building are sights we all hoped we would never see again. The investigation into the fire at The Cube in Bolton will be taking place now so we cannot say for sure at this stage what caused the fire and to what extent cladding was involved.
Terrifying similarities with Grenfell
However it is clear from the pictures and video taken at the scene that this fire shared terrifying similarities with the fire at Grenfell Tower.
No modern building should have fire spreading rapidly across the exterior. Every firefighter will tell you that fighting fires in buildings that have been clad is quickly becoming a firefighters worst nightmare. It is impossible to say at what speed the fire will develop or predict where the fire might spread.
This means that if firefighters are confronted with an incident like the fire in Bolton, it becomes nearly impossible to plan and prepare for – putting firefighters and the public in extreme danger.
Decimated by Tory cuts
On top of this new horrendous challenge for firefighters, the fire service has been decimated by successive Tory governments and coalitions since 2010. Nearly 10,000 frontline firefighters have gone, hundreds of fire engines have been scrapped and stations closed.
It takes us longer to get to a fire than it did 10 years ago and when we do, we arrive with reduced resources to tackle the incident that meets us. Fire safety and fire policy in this country is utterly disgraceful. We have plunged to dangerous lows on what people should expect from one of the worlds richest countries.
Private Landlords are not being held accountable and local authorities have no effective enforcement powers. The deregulation agenda and cuts to the fire service must be stopped and reversed. We have to rip up the whole system and rebuild it with people’s safety, rather than profit, at the heart of new and transformative legislation.
A Tory government will continue to do nothing
It should be obvious to people that a Tory government will do nothing to address this shocking and dangerous situation. Boris Johnson’s attitude to people raising fire safety concerns is to tell them to “get stuffed” and the Tories have failed at every level when it comes to your fire service.
It is only a Labour government that will listen, legislate and regulate to ensure that the necessary action is taken on these buildings and it is only a Labour government that will resource the fire service properly for the future.
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