Well, what should be said?

Fewer people would have died in the Grenfell disaster if London Fire Brigade had not suffered “serious shortcomings” and “systemic” failures in its response to the fire, the official report into the tragedy has concluded.

The damning 1,000-page report also accuses Dany Cotton, London Fire Brigade’s commissioner, of “remarkable insensitivity” after she gave testimony insisting she would have done nothing differently.

If you didn’t bugger it up then what should you say about doing it differently?

Agreed, that’s a big if, but still.

27 thoughts on “Well, what should be said?”

  1. Well… by their own policies they executed correctly. But their policies turned out to be seriously defective in these circumstances.

    What points do you get for breaking the rules, taking a risk, and achieving something? It is not the Public Sector Way.

    Doing what they did, they get criticism but also get to retire on their multi-million gold plated pensions. If they took a risk and it went wrong, they would get all the individual blame and lose it all.

    Her response that she would do nothing differently just betrays the mentality that following policy is all.

  2. How easy it is to judge these things in hindsight. I have no time at all for the kind of people who think that they are clever because they can predict the past. Also, as MC says, they got 99% of the residents out alive.

  3. When is the final info about cause coming out? They should be raking Heaven and Earth looking for the Refrigerator Man –and uncovering the 3 imported families to a flat capers –never mind the Fire Brigade.

  4. Mr Ecks, officially, it was ‘faulty wiring’ in the large fridge freezer. Now there will be a class action suit against Hotpoint.

    Remember, the lawyers are always the winners. At everything.

  5. My understanding is that she followed the rules. The rules haven’t changed! All this really shows is politicians avoiding the blame!

  6. My 99% figure was based on what MC said, 72 out of 7,000, with a tiny bit of rounding. If his numbers are not correct I am happy to be corrected too.

  7. Mr Ecks:

    “When is the final info about cause coming out? ”

    At the same time they let us know how Notre Dame caught fire and the whereabouts of Elvis….

  8. The policy of ‘stay put’ was sensible in the light of the hazard of mass evacuation in smoke filled staircases, and a fire-break design intended to limit the scope of a fire to one, or two flats.

    A hysterical ‘evacuate everyone’, causing mass deaths in the panic and crushing would be similarly criticised if the fire had turned out to be easily contained.

    Ain’t hindsight wonderful.

    The issue is: at what stage did it become apparent the fire was NOT contained within one or two flats, and was spreading building-wide via the exterior cladding? Was the evacuate policy changed at a suitable time for the circumstance or not?

    Cotton’s comment is reasonable in that it stated the Fire Brigade were following the agreed procedure to minimise casualties, until it became clear that the circumstances were different, because of the exterior cladding.

    But these things are not about finding the truth, or learning from experience. They are for public wailing, ostentatious grief performances, grievance leverage and scapegoat identification. Providing a sensible answer has no place in that.

  9. No policy (“always stay put” or “always evacuate”) can ever be perfect. The question that should be addressed is which, applied over a wide variety of cases, on average minimises loss of life.

    Which is not to say that, once the experts are on site, they ought not to override the default using their judgement – which they did (maybe, in hindsight, not soon enough). But people answering 999 calls don’t have all that information.

  10. I’m sure ‘lessons will be learned’ and I’m equally sure that Ms Cotton, (along with most of the brigade), will receive sensitivity training.

    Also, the enquiry into the diversity of the responding crews is probably well under way and the results will be far more scathing than the one into the deaths and injuries involved in the disaster.

  11. I’m still impressed at how the Left managed the media narrative over this.

    It’s council housing. It was run by a tenant-majority organisation. The now Labour MP one of a dozen or so board members.

    The cladding was put up in response to greenies’ demands for social housing to be more eco-friendly.

    The problems on the day were, it seems from the report, exacerbated the union-dominated fire service.

    Yet somehow it’s the Conservatives and capitalism to blame?

    (apologies; I originally managed to post this to the discussion on Chinese mashed potato; it might make a bit more sense here)

  12. I think you are being over harsh. Hindsight clarity.
    Whether the commissioner was a fully experienced fire fighter, or a box ticking figurehead doesn’t make much difference in this particular decision.
    That a large residential block could catch fire was forseeable, and was forseen.
    Of the two main approaches, one had been selected as preferred, and building regulations so suited. For example, sprinkers are no use in firefighting, but only effective for a rapid evacuation. So sprinkers not required. The DT reports there was no building-wide fire alarm, so how to request a mass evacuation?
    Relying on fire containment and ‘stay put’ was a sensible approach.
    But then you get someone, not the fire brigade, wrapping the building in flammable cladding.
    Reality intrudes!
    We’ve all seen the consolidated footage. How easy to armchair judge.
    But on the night? In the confusion, trying to make a determination between accurate data, hysteria, and stress-induced exaggeration? Lives at stake, whichever way you go.

    Could the decison to revoke ‘stay put’ have been taken at a earlier time? Of course. In other circumstances, that might have been even worse.
    With many deaths risked if you choose wrong? Mass evacuation is not trivial or safe.
    Yes, that was her job. That’s what she was paid for.

    And if you want anyone to do those jobs, ever again, you had better understand no one can judge such a confused situation 100% right 100% of the time.
    Even if you did, there would still be deaths, and claims based on hindsight.
    Making her the scapegoat means that there will increasingly be no experienced people willing to take such roles, leaving only the money-seeking incompetents. Which would you prefer?
    The Fire Brigade didn’t light the fire, nor did they wrap the building in flammable cladding in breach of the Building Regulations.
    Why no focus on the cause of the fire, or the council landlord which was responsible for its fire safety?

    Of course, that’s not to say box ticking incompetents were not involved. But this decision timing doesnt show it.
    To return to the original posting: the ‘stay put’ strategy was sensibly selected, and based on the same information, she said she would follow the same decision logic. Of course! What else, flip a coin?

  13. Dennis, He Who Has Gagged On Haggis

    So, let me get this straight: Council government wraps high raise apartment building in a type of cladding system known to be a fire hazard, refuses to maintain or upgrade existing fire safety systems, and then blames the fire department when said building burns.

    Got it.

  14. I can’t tell who/whether anybody is being sarcastic, or whether it’s a typo, but there’s no way that building had 7,000 residents, as MC stated. There’s no accurate figure but the best estimate is between 300 and 325 persons were present, and there were 72 fatalities – so that’s between a 20% and 25% death rate.



  15. RichardT has it right. The whole business was managed according to the best Guardianista principles. The building was owned by the council; the running of it was devolved to an outfit with the majority of the board members elected by council tenants. “Austerity” played no part – there was oodles of money to be spent on making the building greener and prettier. The cladding was, as far as we know, specified entirely in line with the building codes determined by the government health’n’safety people. No doubt the installation was supervised by the council’s Building Control. And the Fire Brigade is supervised by the Greater London Authority under the aegis of that diverse Labour chap Mr Khan, the Mayor of London. Hell, the fire brigade even had a female boss, in charge of the sort of methodical procedures which left little scope for initiative by the people on the spot. It’s everything the Guardian prays for, a winning blend of Stalinism, municipal socialism, syndicalism, trade union power, and identity politics. What could possibly go wrong?

  16. @dearieme

    The inquiry suggests that the cladding was not compliant with building regulations

    “The external walls of Grenfell Tower – which were the focal point of the refurbishment work – failed to comply with building regulations, the report concludes. Sir Martin made his findings on the basis of “compelling evidence” that the walls did not “adequately resist the spread of fire”. “On the contrary, they actively promoted it,” his report notes.

    This piece in the LRB is excellent and pretty much nails all the main points – and shows that the council was not the villain of the piece. It also suggests that the cladding did not meet standards, but that there was a sufficient grey zone that made people believe that it did at the time it was installed.


  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    I can’t tell who/whether anybody is being sarcastic, or whether it’s a typo, but there’s no way that building had 7,000 residents, as MC stated. There’s no accurate figure but the best estimate is between 300 and 325 persons were present, and there were 72 fatalities – so that’s between a 20% and 25% death rate.

    I took it to be reference to the number of people who claimed to have been living in the building in order to get access to benefits, housing and even British passports.

  18. “the cladding did not meet standards, but that there was a sufficient grey zone that made people believe that it did at the time it was installed.” “there was” a grey zone: no moral agency, then? No point that whichever government lab is meant to establish these things had cocked up?

    That won’t do: if there was ambiguity you have to point the finger at the chaps who wrote the standards.

    I thought the piece in the LRB was weak. I still can’t see whether he’s blaming mainly Toni Blair, Them Tory Scum, the Building Research Establishment, or The Tenant Management Organisation. It looks to me as if he wants both to blame principally the TMO but also to scatter blame at people whom he views as his political enemies. Distinctly unhelpful.

  19. @Tim the Coder October 29, 2019 at 12:08 pm
    @RichardT October 29, 2019 at 1:57 pm
    @Dennis October 29, 2019 at 2:43 pm


    iirc Firemen extinguished fridge fire and thought “job done”, then as they left noticed the outside fire.

    The exterior cladding was supposed to be non-flammable, but wasn’t and poor installation bridged firebreaks. By the time evacuation was appropriate the building inc blocked starwells were uninhabitable due to smoke spreading as residents had stolen or damaged fire doors and removed self-closing from their flats’ doors.

    Finally, EU’s Green laws and Blair’s inept deregulation were the cause of exterior fire.

    Ms Dany Cotton, London Fire Brigade’s commissioner – useless Fireman, so stood down and promoted up arse-licking political bureaucracy ladder

    @llamas October 29, 2019 at 3:57 pm

    Figure based on number who claimed they lived there and avg central London council housing illegal subletting & over occupancy

  20. @dearieme October 29, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    …It’s everything the Guardian prays for, a winning blend of Stalinism, municipal socialism, syndicalism, trade union power, and identity politics. What could possibly go wrong?

    Spot on and winner

  21. Also relevant factors:
    The fridge was filled with flammable butane as a working fluid, instead of the non-flammable non-toxic HFC previously used, because of ecolunacy (regardless of CFC and ozone issue; HFC have no chlorine and hence no ozone layer impact. Their withdrawl is Anthracite Gerbil Warbling related).

    The legality of the cladding (fire safety) was subject to EU regulation. I understand Germany had simply disregarded that, and stated that in Germany, it was not allowed in this type of building.
    I think the UK position was blind EU following, which allowed it up to a certain height, but not as it was actually used.

    So much fudging to avoid the ecofreak and EUfreakery responsible.

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