Grenfell: First anniversary

THOSE affected by the Grenfell Tower fire have been in our thoughts at Xact as its first anniversary passed (14th June) – and as we absorb the findings about the fire safety systems on the building’s exterior emerging from the inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

So far the Chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, has heard from the Bereaved, Survivors and Residents groups (BSRs) in a series of commemoration hearings and opening statements from core participants including legal representatives of the BSRs, expert witnesses and companies who had a relationship with Grenfell Tower.

Expert witness, chartered fire engineer Dr Barbara Lane offered her findings which identified that, apart from the aluminium window frames and glass, most of the construction components used in the recent refurbishment process on the exterior of Grenfell Tower were combustible and did not meet the building regulation requirement to be of ”limited combustibility”.

The components which were combustible or consisted of combustible parts included:

  • PIR insulation
  • Cladding screen constructed using PE insulation
  • Window in-fills contained styrofoam
  • Extractor fans housed in panels containing styrofoam
  • Rubber weather proof seals (EPDM)
  • UPVC Window reveals insulated with combustible material

In addition, cavity barriers, which prevent fire spread, appeared to be incorrectly installed. Cladding panels incorporated a ventilation gap that exposed the combustible polyethylene core enabling fire to spread more easily.

Xact Operations Manager Trevor Norwood, said: “The inquiry has yet to determine what impact these matters will have had on the fire. And what can be done to prevent such a tragedy occurring again but it seems that the residents were let down in being allowed to occupy an unsafe building.

“What we can say at this stage is that those installing and maintaining fire safety systems and other safety-critical systems such as fire engineers; fire risk assessors; fire safety enforcing officers and building control inspectors seem to have been unable to prevent this event occurring.”

“Dame Judith Hackitt has already highlighted in her reports following Grenfell the need to raise levels of competence and establish formal accreditation of those engaged in the fire prevention aspects of the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of high-rise residential and complex buildings in her review.

“High quality training, qualifications and accreditation are the routes to achieving this and Xact will continue its dedication to this pursuit.”

The spotlight will be on The Fire Service when the inquiry, which has been adjourned to allow participants to grieve and mourn in private over the anniversary, resumes on Monday (18th June).

Firstly, barristers will question experts on the findings of their investigations before firefighters, including the first crew to arrive at the scene of the fire, give evidence.