Advertisement

The first documents that show there were official warnings about fire safety at Grenfell Tower months before tragedy

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

ITV News has seen documents which are the first to reveal there were official warnings about fire safety at Grenfell Tower before the fire that killed 72 of its residents.

A fire deficiency notice from the then London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), served in November 2016, and a separate independent Fire Risk Assessment, both identified multiple failures at Grenfell that required prompt action by the building management, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO).

The warnings from the independent assessor were issued in June 2016, one year before the fire, with deadlines for action.

Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy said there had been "clear negligence" and that people were "culpable" for the Grenfell tragedy.

"There was clear negligence, that negligence has led to manslaughter and the loss of lives," he said.

"People are culpable. This evidence is probably in front of the inquiry, but it is hugely important that the police act on this gross negligence that we're hearing about today."

In October, the fire risk assessor wrote to the KCTMO asking why action still hadn’t been taken on more than 20 issues he had identified in his June report.

But based on inspections of the building after the fire by experts for the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, there appears to be no evidence action was taken on many of the failings.

Sandra Ruiz, the aunt of 12-year-old Grenfell victim Jessica Ramirez said: "It makes me really angry that somebody would have received that information and didn't act on it."

The two fire safety audits identified problems with damaged or poorly fitted fire doors, fire doors that didn’t self-close, and raised questions about how the refurbishment had affected the operation of the building’s smoke venting system and the firefighter’s lift controls.

These were all problems identified by Dr Barbara Lane in her report to the Inquiry. She’s charged with identifying why the Grenfell Tower behaved the way it did in the fire leading to such catastrophic loss of life.

Experts have expressed surprise at how quickly smoke had spread through the building in the early stages of the fire. Smoke which prevented residents from escaping, and made it far harder for firefighters to enter.

Aldo Diana saved nine people on the night of the fire, many of them unconscious due to smoke inhalation.

Firefighter Aldo Diana was 'surprised' at the amount of smoke he encountered as he went up the building. Credit: ITV News

Basically you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. It was just thick black smoke. You didn't see anybody else you literally had to bump into them. It was just hot, humid and thick black smoke.

Not having correct fire doors is important. Once the smoke starts seeping through to other places, it makes it difficult and dangerous for everybody on that floor, and it shouldn't really go into the stairwell unless there was a breach or ill-fitted doors or something of that nature.

So I was quite surprised by the amount of smoke from the 4th floor, 5th floor all the way up to the top.

– Aldo Diana, firefighter

While they didn’t contribute to the blaze like Grenfell’s combustible outer cladding, fire doors are crucial in containing smoke during a fire.

Containment experts now say the fight was lost very early on the night of June 14th.

Following the fire residents have argued they warned the KCTMO of fire safety concerns for years.

But the unpublished documents are the first evidence that the landlord received warnings they were legally required to act on.

The fire deficiency notice from LFEPA was issued in November 2016 with a deadline for action in May 2017, one month before the fire.

The independent Fire Risk Assessment, a routine inspection during the refurbishment process, was carried out in June 2016 and recommended action on more than 40 “high risk” issues within two to three weeks.

The KCTMO ceased to exist following the fire. The owner of Grenfell Tower, Kensington and Chelsea council said in a statement:

This will be a matter for the public inquiry, and to comment further could risk prejudicing the ongoing police investigation. We do not want to do or say anything that could obstruct the course of justice, because justice is what our residents want the most.

Our first thoughts and our last thoughts will always be with those that lost their lives in the Grenfell Tragedy. We have been clear that we want the whole unvarnished truth and we will do all we can to assist, no matter what the consequences are for the council.

– Kensington and Chelsea council

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry will spend the rest of this year examining evidence from the night of the fire itself.

It is expected to focus on what was known about the fire safety of the tower before the fire in Phase 2 of the inquiry, due to begin early next year.