Grenfell Tower: Don't Let them Blame Firefighters
The enquiry into the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died is being conducted arse about face, according to Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Instead of enquiring as to why the fire in June 2017 was so devastating, which would involve investigating into the deregulation of fire safety regulations under successive governments and the role of private companies in the refurbishment of the Tower, the first phase of the enquiry looked at the conduct of the firefighters on the night of the fire. They didn’t cause the fire – negligence and the neoliberal obsession with deregulation did.
As the first phase of the enquiry has drawn to a close, the second phase which involves an analysis of 200,000 documents will probably not come to a conclusion till three years after the fire. Its purpose is ‘to examine fully the circumstances and causes of the disaster’. So far the enquiry hasn’t even looked at that!
The FBU suspects a cover-up as the emotional impact of the horror recedes and the real guilty parties prepare their excuses.
For instance John Plant, the chief executive of Arconic, the company that made the flammable cladding used on Grenfell, asserted there were no “specific claims for compensation or anything like that coming from [the inquiry] and neither does the company believe that it was the cause of this incident”.
In the meantime firefighters who risked their lives are in the frame. Matt Wrack suspects a stitch-up of his members and a whitewash of those really responsible for the fire deaths.. He declares:
“The views I am expressing are being expressed more bluntly in fire stations, that this is in danger of turning into a stitch-up of firefighters. Even if they did or didn’t make mistakes, the only thing they did on the night was turn up to put a fire out and yet they are the people that have come under the most scrutiny so far.”
“The stark, staring obvious problem is, how can you wrap a building in flammable material like that?” he asks. “Everyone asked that within hours and yet we won’t even look at that in three years and before they start to reach conclusions on it it could quite easily be 2021. The order of business was wrong. Looking at the night before looking at the background was wrong. Before any 999 call was made the building was already a death trap. All of the safety arrangements had been compromised, but how we got to that stage we still don’t know.”
Matt Wrack concludes: “By the time the inquiry looks at what are for us more fundamental issues, public and political interest will have waned and I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but it is almost what some people would want. Deregulation, including of the fire service, should be at the heart of this debate and those are decisions that were made by ministers. Government ministers ultimately benefit from how things are playing out currently. While people go into this believing this will deliver justice, it may well not deliver justice at all.”