Grenfell Tower report accused of 'scapegoating firefighters' by 'blaming' fire brigade for tragedy

There were "serious shortcomings" and "systematic" failures by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) in its response to the Grenfell disaster, according to the official report into the tragedy (Picture: PA)

The official report into the Grenfell Tower fire has been criticised for “scapegoating firefighters”.

The first phase of the inquiry said London Fire Brigade’s “stay put” advice led to more deaths during the fire, and that there were "serious shortcomings" and "systematic" failures by the LFB in its response to the June 2017 disaster, which claimed the lives of 72 people.

The report into the tragedy, due to be published on Wednesday but seen by the Press Association, also accused the brigade's commissioner Dany Cotton of "remarkable insensitivity" after she said she would not have done anything differently on the night.

Inquiry chairman, retired Court of Appeal judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, said the main reason the flames shot up the building at such speed was the combustible aluminium cladding used in the refurbishment of the tower.

But the leaked contents of the report have caused considerable anger among campaigners, politicians and unions, who are frustrated the inquiry did not focus on those who made the building’s cladding and oversaw its refurbishment. These factors will only be examined in the second phase of the inquiry next year.

Firefighters were praised at the time of the Grenfell blaze for their bravery (Picture: Getty)
There has been online solidarity for the firefighters who tackled the Grenfell Tower fire (Picture: AFP/Getty)

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the inquiry was “back to front”.

Speaking about the flammable cladding, he said: “People will be baffled why people haven't already been prosecuted for doing that to a building, which led to the deaths of 72 people, and yet the actions of individual firefighters on the night of a fire are being subject to such scrutiny."

He said individual firefighters are being “subjected to a degree of scrutiny which ministers are avoiding”.

Mr Wrack also tweeted: “One obvious point is that central government has done nothing serious to address concerns in the 28 months since the fire. Or in the years BEFORE the fire. Don’t let them scapegoat firefighters.”

He added: “Over next two days please remember: Firefighters did not put flammable cladding on Grenfell Tower. Firefighters risked their own lives time and again during the fire. Government has done nothing substantive in 28 months.”

Firefighters greet local residents on the one year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire (Picture: Getty)

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott tweeted: “It's completely wrong to blame firefighters for government policy. 'Stay put' was government policy. It still is.”

Labour MP Dan Carden tweeted: “Solidarity with @fbunational and all firefighters - the men and women who risk their lives and are the front line responders to emergencies.

“Real justice for those who lost their lives at #Grenfell will only come by holding those who created this atrocity to account.”

And Black Lives Matter activist @Nick_BLM said: “Clearly mistakes were made by the LFB in Grenfell Tower but those brave fire fighters did all they could to save lives.

“Why does the 1st report not focus on the root cause? The corporate greed using cheap flammable cladding.”

Earlier this month, a union claimed firefighters still don’t know how to evacuate tower blocks two years after the tragedy.

In the report, Sir Martin criticised the London Fire Brigade for its "stay-put" strategy, when residents were told to remain in their flats by firefighters and 999 operators for nearly two hours after the blaze broke out just before 1am.

The strategy was rescinded at 2.47am, the report said.

Sir Martin said: "That decision could and should have been made between 1.30am and 1.50am and would be likely to have resulted in fewer fatalities.

"The best part of an hour was lost before Assistant Commissioner (Andy) Roe revoked the 'stay put' advice."

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He praised the heroics and bravery of individual firefighters, but described the "stay put" strategy as an "article of faith within the LFB so powerful that to depart from it was to all intents and purposes unthinkable".

The official report into the Grenfell tragedy will be published this week (Picture: PA)

Survivors and relatives of the deceased had previously called for the report to acknowledge that the building failed its residents.

The 1,000-page report also concluded the fire on June 14, 2017, in which 72 people died, started as the result of an "electrical fault in a large fridge-freezer" in a fourth floor flat.

‘Serious shortcomings’

He added: "I identify a number of serious shortcomings in the response of the LFB, both in the operation of the control room and on the incident ground.

"It is right to recognise that those shortcomings were for the most part systemic in nature."

Sir Martin also said that "the LFB's preparation and planning for a fire such as that at Grenfell Tower was gravely inadequate."

‘Remarkable insensitivity’

Sir Martin described Ms Cotton's evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the fire service on the night as "remarkably insensitive".

He added: "Quite apart from its remarkable insensitivity to the families of the deceased and to those who escaped from their burning homes with their lives, the Commissioner's evidence that she would not change anything about the response of the LFB on the night, even with the benefit of hindsight, only serves to demonstrate that the LFB is an institution at risk of not learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire."

London Fire Brigade commissioner Dany Cotton showed "remarkable insensitivity", the report said (Picture: PA)
The Grenfell Tower fire claimed the lives of 72 people (Picture: PA)

He also said of Ms Cotton "that [her] evidence betrayed an unwillingness to confront the fact that by 2017 the LFB knew (even if she personally did not) that there was a more than negligible risk of a serious fire in a high rise building with a cladding system".

London Fire Brigade said it would not comment on the findings until the report was officially published on Wednesday.

Ms Cotton announced in June she would retire in April 2020. The inquiry's second phase is due to start in the new year.

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