Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower, a residential block, on 14 June 2017 in west London (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

London blaze tower residents warned of “catastrophe”

14 June 2017 | By GCR Staff 8 Comments

“ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time,” a residents’ group said angrily today as a blaze described by officials as unprecedented engulfed their 24-storey apartment block overnight in Kensington, London.

An unknown number of fatalities have been confirmed after the massive fire ripped through the recently refurbished west London building, starting just before 1am today, trapping residents inside as 250 firefighters tried to battle the blaze.

Eyewitnesses reported horrific scenes of people jumping from windows and throwing children to safety in an incident called “unprecedented” by London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton, who said in a statement this morning: “In my 29 years of being a firefighter I have never ever seen anything of this scale. Firefighters are working very hard at the moment,” newspaper The Guardian reported.

Around 50 people so far have been taken to hospital after the fire, but many are feared still inside the Grenfell tower at the Lancaster West Estate in Kensington, which contains around 120 apartments, home to an estimated 600 people.

A residents’ group at the tower, which is owned by the local authority, today used its website to call attention to its repeated warnings over four years over how the authority’s property management group has treated fire safety issues.

“ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time,” writes the Grenfell Action Group on the latest blog, which contains links to 10 blogs complaining about fire safety dating back to 2013.

Concern has focussed on advice apparently given to residents stay in their flats if fire broke out.

Grenfell Tower contains around 120 apartments, home to an estimated 600 people (London Fire Brigade via Twitter)

A blog posted in November 2016, said: “In the last twenty years and despite the terrifying power surge incident in 2013 and recent fire at Adair Tower, the residents of Grenfell Tower have received no proper fire safety instructions from the KCTMO [Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation].

“Residents were informed by a temporary notice stuck in the lift and one announcement in a recent regeneration newsletter that they should remain in their flats in the event of fire. There are not and never have been any instructions posted on the Grenfell Tower noticeboard or on individual floors as to how residents should act in the event of a fire.”

The fire investigation will include an examination of the role that the cladding may have played in the spread of the fire.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing the building’s new cladding burning “like a matchstick”. A man who escaped from the 17th floor with his aunt said: “The cladding was flammable, it just caught up like a matchstick,” Channel 4 News reported, according to The Guardian. The man also said he heard no fire alarms.

A refurbishment of Grenfell Tower was completed in July last year by Rydon Group, a contractor based in East Sussex.

On its website Rydon said: “The £10m project included extensive remodelling of the bottom four floors creating nine additional new homes, improved communal facilities for the residents, and improved spaces for two local businesses.

“Externally, rain screen cladding, replacement windows and curtain wall façades have been fitted giving the building a fresher, modern look. All of the remodelling & refurbishment works were completed with residents still in occupation on the upper twenty floors.”

Cladding subcontractor Harley Curtain Wall went into administration shortly after completing the Grenfell Tower project.

Top image: Fire engulfs Grenfell Tower, a residential block, on 14 June 2017 in west London