The London Fire Department (LFB) did not know how to properly deploy water equipment that could have put out the flames to the top of Grenfell Tower and potentially save lives, according to the disaster investigation.
In what an attorney for the bereaved and survivors called an “extraordinary possibility of having to consider four years after the fire”, an expert witness found that water from a monitor on the ground – a nozzle on a fixed basis – next to the tower was able to reach the 15th floor, and that all available overhead pumps were able to launch water to the top of the building.
But neither happened “due to a fundamental misunderstanding of the technical characteristics of the water supply and the resulting inability to modify incident strategies to ensure a greater water flow, ”said Danny Friedman QC, representing the bereaved and survivors.
Friedman said that the as yet unpublished analysis by Dr Ivan Stoianov, an independent expert appointed by the survey, was that “there was material ready that could have made a difference without the lack of institutional knowledge on how best to use it “.
In opening remarks to the final stage of the public inquiry into the June 14, 2017, disaster, in which at least 72 people died, Friedman said the LFB was “dangerously ill-prepared” and still needed help. external intervention to improve its culture and practices, describing it as “incapable of meeting contemporary challenges”.
The investigation will examine why the London firefighters were not better prepared. He will hear from current commissioner Andy Roe and Dany Cotton, who was in charge in 2017 and received criticism when she told the inquiry she would have done nothing differently.
Friedman said that while it was unlikely that more water prevented the fire from spreading upward, the water contained fires on floors 10 and 11 and enabled the rescue of Antonio Roncolato to 6:05 a.m., four and a half hours after the flames passed the tower. , and Elpidio Bonifacio at 8:07 am.
He spoke of the contrasting fate of the apartments on the upper floors – including apartment 113, three floors above, where four people died. “This new evidence on water adds a potential additional reason why this apartment and this floor stands out as the paradigm of preventable death.”
Representing the LFB, Stephen Walsh QC told the inquest: “None of the expert witnesses… claim to have expertise in fighting fires.”
But he declined to respond to Stoinov’s report, which he said the LFB was still considering. He said the LFB was committed to “doing everything in its power to learn the hard lessons of that terrible night”.
Friedman said that when other firefighters adopted a more sophisticated system to guide incident commanders in crisis decision-making, the LFB stuck with a system designed in the 1940s. When, in 2014, Kent firefighters have devised a new system for evacuating buildings that like Grenfell have retention policies, London firefighters have not followed suit. The firefighting investigation expert concluded that it could have saved lives.
“There are aspects of the LFB’s defeat at Grenfell Tower that were caused by the culture of the organization, caught in its traditions, fiercely nurtured by its unions,” Friedman said. “His heroic status makes it rare for him to face public criticism. But that makes it difficult to honestly assess its deepest limits. “
There was a “conservative and quite fearful work culture,” he said.
In his opening statement, Imran Khan, advocate for other residents, highlighted the failure of the LFB to train commanders and firefighters in fighting cladding fires despite knowledge of the risks in the UK and the foreigner. He also requested that the investigation examine whether the treatment of residents was different because of their race and social class.
For another group of survivors, Leslie Thomas QC pointed to the drastic cuts to the LFB budget and urged the inquiry to investigate the decisions of Boris Johnson, when he was mayor of London, to impose “severe cuts. “.
The investigation is continuing.