A Residents' Group For Grenfell Tower Made Repeated Warnings About Fire Safety
The group used its blog on at least eight occasions in the last three years to say fire safety standards were inadequate.
A residents' action group in the west London tower block that was engulfed in flames on Wednesday morning had made repeated warnings about the standard of fire safety in the building and predicted that only a catastrophic event would expose how bad the problem had got.
The Grenfell Action Group used its blog on at least eight occasions in the last three years to say fire safety standards were inadequate in the 24-storey tower and that the building's landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), needed to do more.
On 20 November last year it wrote:
It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders.
The post went on to say that "only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation."
On Wednesday morning, the group posted another blog post that said:
Watching breaking news about the Grenfell Tower fire catastrophe. Too soon to even guess at numbers of casualties and fatalities.
Regular readers of this blog will know that we have posted numerous warnings in recent years about the very poor fire safety standards at Grenfell Tower and elsewhere in RBKC [the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea].
That post noted that residents experienced a series of power surges in 2013 that were found to be the result of faulty wiring.
The blog pointed out that KCTMO was handed two enforcement notices by the local council after a fire broke out in another building it manages in Kensington in October 2015, Adair Tower.
Minutes of a KCTMO board meeting on 20 July 2016 said the company was told to install self-closing devices on all flat entrance doors and review ventilation in lifts and communal staircases.
Grenfell Tower had only recently had a £8.6 million upgrade by contracting firm Rydon that took over a year to carry out and involved the installation of new cladding to the outside of the building, new windows, and insulation.
Pieces of cladding could be seen strewn across the surrounding streets on Wednesday morning.
Mike Watkins, a local housing officer, but not for Grenfell Tower, told BuzzFeed News there are some very angry residents.
"I understand that the building has only just recently been renovated. So questions are being asked about what sort of materials are being used that caused this," he said. "There are some very upset and very angry people."
A newsletter to residents in May 2016 said the fire brigade had asked KCTMO to tell residents to stay in their homes in the event of a fire unless it was inside their property.
Emma Dent Coad, the newly elected Labour MP for Kensington, who was a longstanding local councillor and also sits on the London Fire Authority, told BBC News: "We have had a lot of concerns about moving older people out of tower blocks when something happens. I've no idea what's happened but this has been a concern for some time. I've had three tower block fires in my ward, Golborne Ward, including Trellick Tower, so this is always a concern."
In a wider context, experts recently warned that a delay in reviewing building regulations was putting 4,000 tower blocks at risk – despite clear warnings from the 2009 Lakanal House fire, in which six people died.
An inquest heard that the building had inadequate fire assessment and that exterior walls did not provide enough fire resistance. Southwark council pleaded guilty to four criminal charges relating to fire safety and was fined £570,000.
Ronnie King, honorary administrative secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on fire safety, told the Fire Risk Management Journal in March that building regulations had yet to be updated in light of the Lakanal House incident.
BuzzFeed News attempted to contact KCTMO through its customer service centre, but was told that the company would not be responding until 9am, when the main office opens. The customer service operator said that an "escalation manager" was on site dealing with the families and that no one else was available to comment.
Kensington and Chelsea council said on its website: "The Council's major emergency plan was activated earlier this morning in response to the fire at Grenfell Tower. Local Authority Liaison Officers are working directly with emergency services at the scene."
"An emergency rest centre has been opened for evacuees at the Harrow Centre, Freston Road and an emergency contact number has been set up for anyone concerned for loved ones. Please call the casualty bureau on 0800 0961 233.
'"At present all our focus is on supporting the rescue and relief operation."