Grenfell Tower: London Fire Brigade interviewed under caution by police over blaze response, UK
Detectives investigating the Grenfell Tower inferno have interviewed the London Fire Brigade amid concern its stay-put advice to residents left their lives in danger. Scotland Yard is examining whether the brigade, as a corporate body, breached health and safety laws in relation to both its own fire fighters and the residents trapped inside. Crews and 999 operators spent the first two hours of the disaster telling the block’s occupants to remain in their flats before realising the blaze was wildly out of control. It is feared the delay in ordering a full evacuation of the 24-storey building may have contributed to the death toll of the June 2017 tragedy, which claimed 72 lives.
Questions have also mounted about the adequacy of the training put in place by the brigade for tackling cladding fires in high-rise buildings after the Lakanal House fire killed six people in similar circumstances in 2009.
Dany Cotton, the commissioner of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) who faced fierce criticism over the emergency response, revealed an interview had been conducted with police under caution. She said, “As the fire and rescue service attending the Grenfell Tower fire it is entirely correct that we are part of the investigation. “Hundreds of fire fighters, officers and control officers have already provided voluntary police interviews and we will continue to do all we can to assist investigators. The bereaved, survivors and residents need answers and we must all understand what happened and why to prevent communities and emergency services from ever being placed in such impossible conditions ever again.”
It is not clear when the interview took place and the announcement comes shortly after the public inquiry into the fire finalised a report which is expected to criticise the LFB, due to be released in October.
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation has so far conducted 17 interviews under caution, including with other unnamed individuals over possible gross negligence manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences. Detectives are considering whether the LFB failed in its duty to protect employees from harm or acted in a way that exposed members of the public to risk, as set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Equipment shortages and faulty gear were said to have hampered the work of fire fighters who rushed into the burning building, many of whom publicly gave evidence to the inquiry. Radios linking rescue crews to commanders on the ground proved ineffective and there was a dearth of extended-duration breathing apparatus (EDBA) which would have allowed teams to move higher in the building, the inquiry was told.
Brien O’Keeffe, a watch manager from the Kensington crew, said he was forced to act “way outside policy” by asking fire fighters to travel as far as they could through the smoke-logged corridors without using their oxygen supplies to compensate for the shortages of EDBA. He said in a statement to the inquiry, “I believe this tactic did help crews undertake numerous rescues although it added increased danger to the BA crews themselves.”
Several senior officers also told the inquiry they lacked training on fighting cladding fires in tall buildings, including Michael Dowden, the first incident commander, who said he was left feeling “helpless” by the speed with which it spread.
Breaches of health and safety laws by a corporate body can result in unlimited fines.
Grenfell United, which represents many survivors and bereaved families, said in response to the announcement, "A year ago this month the Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade Dany Cotton upset many survivors and bereaved families with her comment that the LFB 'wouldn’t develop a training package for a space shuttle landing on the Shard' suggesting such a fire was inconceivable. “This was despite many warnings following previous fires, including the Lakanal House fire that killed six people. It is only right that serious questions are being asked of the LFB.”
Scotland Yard is not expected to make any criminal charging decisions until at least 2021, when the public inquiry is expected to have published its final report.
Source: The Telegraph