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Grenfell Tower fire: ‘Systemic failures’ in fire brigade’s response

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Media captionThe second anniversary of the tragedy was marked last June

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been condemned for “serious shortcomings” and systemic failures in its response to the Grenfell Tower fire, in a report into the 2017 blaze.

Fewer people would have died in the fire if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier, the report by inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick said.

He also said some evidence given by the LFB at the inquiry was “insensitive”.

The BBC has seen sections of the report ahead of Wednesday’s publication.

The head of the Fire Brigades Union said the inquiry was “back to front” and the focus should be on why the building was dangerous in the first place.

Matt Wrack told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that decisions were made on the night “in the context of a building that [had] completely failed”.

Referring to the flammable cladding, he said: “People will be baffled [as to] why people haven’t already been prosecuted for doing that to a building, which led to the deaths of 72 people, and yet the actions of individual firefighters on the night of a fire are being subject to such scrutiny.”

The inquiry has criticised the Daily Telegraph, which first published leaked details of the report, and other media which followed suit. A spokeswoman said publication had deprived “those most affected by the fire – the bereaved, survivors and residents – of the opportunity to read the report at their own pace”.

The 1,000-page document follows the first phase of the inquiry, which looked at what happened on the night that 72 people died in the tower block fire on 14 June 2017.

The council, the tower’s tenant management organisation, the police and the fire service were all quizzed during the inquiry’s first phase.

Sir Martin’s report praised the courage of firefighters on the night.

But it found many “institutional” failures that meant the LFB’s planning and preparation for the incident was “gravely inadequate”.

For example, Sir Martin said control room staff who fielded 999 calls “undoubtedly saved lives” but “a close examination” of operations revealed “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”.

He said staff that night were in an “invidious” position when they were outnumbered by 999 calls.

“Supervisors were under the most enormous pressure, but the LFB had not provided its senior control room staff with appropriate training on how to manage a large-scale incident with a large number of FSG [Fire Survival Guidance] calls,” he said.

“Mistakes made in responding to the Lakanal House fire were repeated,” he added – referring to a fire in Camberwell, south London, in 2009, which killed three women and three children.

Analysis

By Lucy Manning, special correspondent

This report could not be more critical of the London Fire Brigade.

The Grenfell families wanted this level of criticism, especially those whose relatives died when they were told for nearly two hours to stay put in the building as it was covered in flames.

But there is also some frustration that this first part of the inquiry wasn’t about those who made the cladding and oversaw the refurbishment of Grenfell.

That will only happen in the second phase of the inquiry next year and then they’ve got even longer to wait for the police investigation to finish.

So they are seeing some blame apportioned and they hope they will eventually see justice but the Grenfell survivors will always suffer the loss and grief and ask the question how did 72 people die in what was supposed to be the safety of their homes?

Sir Martin also criticised the LFB for its “stay put” strategy, where firefighters and 999 operators told residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out.

The strategy was rescinded at 02:47 BST, the report said. Sir Martin wrote: “That decision could and should have been made between 01:30 and 01:50 and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.”

Firefighters who attended the fire did not have training on how best to combat a cladding fire, the report added.

Four experienced members of the first crews to have fought the blaze had 52 years of combined experience. However, they had not received any training on the risks posed by exterior cladding or the techniques to be deployed in fighting fires involving cladding, the report found.

Sir Martin said the “principal” reason the fire spread so quickly “up, down and around the building was the presence of the aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores, which acted as a source of fuel”.

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PA Media

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Dany Cotton said she would not have changed anything about the way her brigade responded to the blaze

The report also said evidence given by the LFB’s commissioner, Dany Cotton, suggested lessons from the fire might be missed.

Sir Martin wrote: “Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner’s evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire.”

A spokesperson for the LFB said it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the report’s findings before they were officially released on Wednesday.

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Getty Images

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The families of the 72 victims contributed to the report

Speaking on Monday, Sir Martin said the report was long and detailed.

He stressed that readers of the report “should understand as clearly as possible the terrifying conditions faced by those who were in the building, at the time”.

The cause of the fire was found by the report to be “an electrical fault in the large fridge freezer in the kitchen” in a fourth-floor flat.

“It occurred without any fault on the part of the tenant… and I am pleased to clear him of any blame, given that some people have unfairly accused him of having some responsibility for what happened,” Sir Martin said.

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Mesut Ozil: What’s happening with the midfielder at Arsenal?

Ozil has been in and out of the Arsenal matchday squad this season, starting just one league game

Where is Mesut Ozil?

It must be a question Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting tired of answering. Or, sort of answering.

The German midfielder has made just one Premier League start for Arsenal this season and has now been left out of the Gunners’ last four matchday squads.

On Monday, his absence prompted more questions, with Arsenal badly lacking any creativity as they fruitlessly tried to break down a solid Sheffield United defence.

In the end, the Blades won 1-0 while Arsenal slumped to another defeat on the road.

Asked by BBC Sport if Ozil was available, Gunners boss Unai Emery simply replied with: “He can help us, yes.”

BBC Radio 5 Live summariser Chris Sutton, however, believes Emery should be more forthcoming.

“It would be nice if Unai Emery just came out and said and then we would know instead of us guessing,” he said.

“Is it a lack of commitment? We know he’s a quality player but do we think he’s lost his guile? His awareness? His touch?

Of course we don’t – so what’s the problem?

That, it seems, is the question on many people’s lips.

Why has he not played this season?

Since joining Arsenal six years ago, Ozil has missed 101 games for the Gunners but has only had one major injury in that time.

Most of his absences have been explained away by illness or minor niggles, while he missed Arsenal’s season opener against Newcastle along with team-mate Sead Kolasinac because of security concerns after they were involved in an attempted car-jacking.

Kolasinac, however, has long since returned to the squad but Ozil has appeared and then disappeared, sometimes because of fitness, sometimes because Emery has felt other players have been more deserving of a chance.

Mesut Ozil & Sead Kolasinac 100% mentally ready – Emery

Arsenal? Emery? Ozil? Who is to blame?

Former Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie believes this is a situation Arsenal could and should have handled better.

“It’s definitely mismanagement,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.

“This is the problem these days in football, these bumper contracts players are getting and when they’re not performing, it’s coming straight to the headlines of how much money he earns and what he does.

“Whether Mesut Ozil is going to turn a corner – and I don’t think he is – it just seems like there is a massive issue behind the scenes as to why he’s not playing.

“On his day he’s a world-class player but when you’re earning that type of money, then you are going to come under scrutiny for earning that money and not playing.

Sutton, however, believes only Ozil himself can truly resolve the issue.

He said: “I don’t care how much Mesut Ozil is paid, the main thing is how he’s is performing on the pitch in an Arsenal shirt – and he’s not.

“We aren’t party to how Arsenal train or what’s goes on but if Ozil was doing that well – and we know what a superb talent he is – Unai Emery would know what impact he would have on the team, so he would play him, because he wants to win games and improve.

“There must be something amiss and it looks Ozil will have to sort this situation out himself.

“Arsenal have either got to ship him out and just bite the bullet, or they’ve got to get him back playing in the side, but it’s been down to their own doing and I feel they’ve caused their own problems.”

Do Arsenal miss him?

The statistics would suggest so.

Since Ozil made his debut for the Gunners, no player has created more chances than him. In fact, no-one comes even close.

Premier League (since Ozil’s debut)
PlayerChances created
Mesut Ozil522
Aaron Ramsey272
Santi Cazorla190
Olivier Giroud183
Granit Xhaka121

He has also been the club’s top assist maker in three of their last six seasons, although admittedly did not feature in the top three of the list in the last campaign.

Premier League (since Ozil’s debut)
SeasonPlayerAssists
2013-14Mesut Ozil9
2014-15Sanit Cazorla11
2015-16Mesut Ozil19
2016-17Alexis Sanchez10
2017-18Mesut Ozil8
2018-19Alexandre Lacazette8

Against Sheffield United, the influence of the midfield five of Nicolas Pepe, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock, Matteo Guendouzi and Bukayo Saka paled in comparison to the Blades.

They managed two key passes between them compared to five for the Sheffield United midfield.

What does Ozil say?

Ozil has been quiet on the matter for a long time, but recently provided some insight into the situation he finds himself in.

Speaking to The Athletic,