Residents repeatedly warned Grenfell Tower management of fire risks

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By Pierre Bertrand
Residents repeatedly warned Grenfell Tower management of fire risks

The fire which devastated west London’s Grenfell Tower and killed at least 12 residents as they slept was a tragedy waiting to happen, says the apartment block’s residents association, which repeatedly issued warnings about the state of the 24-storey building.

The Grenfell Action Group, created in 2010 to represent the residents of the Lancaster West Estate which includes Grenfell Tower, says its warnings to the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which manages council estates on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, fell on deaf ears.

“ALL OURWARNINGSFELL ON DEAFEARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time,” said the action group in an updated blog post in which they brought forward a list of previous complaints to the tenant management organisation.

Between 2013 and 2017 the action group published as many as 10 warnings highlighting numerous security risks affecting the integrity of the tower block and the safety of its residents.

The resident association documented a series of power surges in the tower block lasting several week in 2013. Residents woke to find smoke coming from “various electrical appliances in their homes, including the light fixtures, and descended in panic to the estate office to demand help and assistance,” said the action group.

Most damningly, the residents association accused the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation in 2016 of failing to ensure the safety of its residents and said, in a blog post entitled “Playing with Fire,” that only a significant event, like a fire, would bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation.

In a statement issued on its website, the Grenfell tenant management organisation said it is focused on helping London firefighters investigating the blaze and helping residents displaced by the fire.

“The fire at Grenfell Tower is devastating and the reports of injury and losses of life absolutely heart-breaking,” said Robert Black the tenant management organisation’s chief executive. “Along with my colleagues, I have been supporting residents since the early hours, working with the emergency services and the community.”

Geoff Wilkinson, a fire and building inspector speaking to the BBC, said the Grenfell Tower did not “perform in the way you’d expect a building to preform” once ablaze.

He said he would not expect a fire to spread the way it did, and at the speed it did, as in the Grenfell Tower. He said something went “dramatically wrong”.

Forensic teams are on the scene to piece together how the tower bloc lit up like a matchstick. There is speculation that recently installed cladding on the building’s exterior may have not been fire resistant enough and may have contributed to the fire’s ferocity.

The apartment complex had undergone a refurbishment and Rydon, the company which completed the project in 2016, said in a statement it “met all required building controls, fire regulation and health & safety standards”.