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Thread: London Apartment Fire

  1. #1

    Default London Apartment Fire

    So far 12 people have been confirmed dead and 18 seriously injured in a London apartment fire that ravaged a highrise apartment building that housed 120 families.

    Video https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2...apartment.html

    I've spent nearly thirty years representing tenants and have had cases where we had to go to court because the landlord was negligent in providing fire prevention equipment such as smoke detectors or sprinkler systems. I've also helped tenants who were displaced from their units after they were destroyed by fire. In spite of all this, I have never seen anything like the tragic loss of life after this fire burned out of control.

    Assuming the firefighters responded in a timely manner, I cannot understand how a fire can spread so rapidly throughout a building of this size. Do they not have a building code that such complexes must be built with fire retardant materials? The tenants also claimed that there was no sprinkler system in the complex which also allowed the fire to spead rapidly. Could they not have a city inspector come in to investigate and order the landlord to ensure the building is safe? How could this possibly happen? I hope this tragedy results in an investigation to ensure another one can be prevented.
    Last edited by Starrunner; 14-Jun-2017 at 23:58.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starrunner View Post
    How could this possibly happen?
    Funding cuts maybe? Lack of maintenance? The tenants have complained that it was a fire trap for years and years and the powers that be did NOTHING.

  3. #3

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    Would seem that the external cladding, despite having fireproof backing, served to effectively wick the fire rapidly up the outside of the building. It's been really hot here of late (for the UK), so many people had windows open, both in flats and possibly communal areas, which allowed the external fire to catch things like curtains and jump into the building. Information in the public realm does suggest there were long running concerns over a wide variety of issues, especially those related to fire, but that's for subsequent investigations to determine. Worth noting this was a 1970s block that had been refurbished, so design and internal services were nowhere near as efficient as modern buildings. No sprinkler system, for example, which is disturbing given recommendations following previous fires. I suspect funding cuts and poor / disinterested management will be at the centre of it, and I think it's going to become very political very quickly.

    Emergency services were amazing, by all accounts. Fire teams were there within six minutes of getting the call, and you can't question the bravery and professionalism of people who knowingly walk into a smoke filled burning building to rescue people.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starrunner View Post
    I've spent nearly thirty years representing tenants and have had cases where we had to go to court because the landlord was negligent in providing fire prevention equipment such as smoke detectors or sprinkler systems. I've also helped tenants who were displaced from their units after they were destroyed by fire. In spite of all this, I have never seen anything like the tragic loss of life after this fire burned out of control.

    Assuming the firefighters responded in a timely manner, I cannot understand how a fire can spread so rapidly throughout a building of this. Do they not have a building code that such complexes must be built with fire retardant materials? The tenants also claimed that there was no sprinkler system in the complex which also allowed the fire to spead rapidly. Could they not have a city inspector come in to investigate and order the landlord to ensure the building is safe? How could this possibly happen? I hope this tragedy results in an investigation to ensure another one can be prevented.
    The problem is that it's a block of council flats... (so the council both own the building and are responsible for inspections). Reading between the lines, it sounds like they had mis-categorised the file-retardant properties of the building, and covered up the fact that thought it would be much better than it actually was at containing a fire.

    Residents had been advised to stay in their flats in the case of fire. But that should only be the advice in a building with extreme fire-retardant material between stories, and was completely inappropriate here.

    It had recently been refurbished... But the money was spent on aesthetic cladding to make the tower block more attractive to the wealthy residents in nearby houses, rather than improving the flats for the people living in them.

    The cladding was fire-resistant (not retardant), made of plastic, and separated from the building itself by a small gap to allow moisture to escape from the walls. They reckon this gap may have acted as a "chimney", sucking air into the fire, causing the plastic to melt, catch fire, and very rapidly spread the fire on the outside of the building.

    Narrow London streets also prevented the use of any super-sized crane that could reach beyond the lower floors.

    And the tower block was built in the 1970s, an era of high unemployment, high inflation, power-cuts, strikes, a 3-day working week, and a housing shortage. These blocks were put up cheaply, using the absolute cheapest of materials (few fire-protection measures, noise insulation, etc.).

    I'm very surprised that a building of that height only had a single stairwell. But I find it absolutely incredible that there was no sprinkler system or even a fire alarm! And residents were officially advised to "stay put" in case of fire. How can any of that be legal?!

  5. #5

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    Even made the news here, despite a big local weather story and the Virginia shooting. Mostly what I saw was video of a spectacular blaze with very little detail. Sorry to hear about the deaths and injuries. Seeing the video, that seemed inevitable unless it was a vacant building. Like I said, we didn't get much detail.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post
    The problem is that it's a block of council flats... (so the council both own the building and are responsible for inspections). Reading between the lines, it sounds like they had mis-categorised the file-retardant properties of the building, and covered up the fact that thought it would be much better than it actually was at containing a fire.

    Residents had been advised to stay in their flats in the case of fire. But that should only be the advice in a building with extreme fire-retardant material between stories, and was completely inappropriate here.

    It had recently been refurbished... But the money was spent on aesthetic cladding to make the tower block more attractive to the wealthy residents in nearby houses, rather than improving the flats for the people living in them.

    The cladding was fire-resistant (not retardant), made of plastic, and separated from the building itself by a small gap to allow moisture to escape from the walls. They reckon this gap may have acted as a "chimney", sucking air into the fire, causing the plastic to melt, catch fire, and very rapidly spread the fire on the outside of the building.

    Narrow London streets also prevented the use of any super-sized crane that could reach beyond the lower floors.

    And the tower block was built in the 1970s, an era of high unemployment, high inflation, power-cuts, strikes, a 3-day working week, and a housing shortage. These blocks were put up cheaply, using the absolute cheapest of materials (few fire-protection measures, noise insulation, etc.).

    I'm very surprised that a building of that height only had a single stairwell. But I find it absolutely incredible that there was no sprinkler system or even a fire alarm! And residents were officially advised to "stay put" in case of fire. How can any of that be legal?!
    I've been reading more reports as they came in after my first post and they all seem to confirm what you are saying, tiny. They are now saying that 17 have been confirmed dead but there are still entire families that are missing and presumed dead.

    We have a couple of very large buildings here in Ottawa that have undergone similar renovations with cladding. They had relatively cheap rents and were occupied mostly by people with low incomes. A corporate landlord bought the buildings, evicted the low-income tenants for the purpose of extensive renovations, renovated the buildings with the cladding process and then re-rented the apartments at double the previous rents, advertising them as 'luxury' rental units.

    While London is in shock and mourning and dealing with the aftermath, I hope the impending investigation will yield some answers, notably how the cladding or other factors led to the fire spreading so rapidly throughout the building, why the landlord would spend so much money on cosmetic renovations while not installing a central fire alarm or sprinkler system, why tenants were advised to stay in their units, and how tenants could have complained for the past year that the building was a firetrap, yet their calls for help were left unanswered.

    The building had a tenants' association which repeatedly called for an investigation into the management's incompetence and had warned over the past eighteen months that the building was a firetrap.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-1...e-risk/8617632

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maxx View Post
    Seeing the video, that seemed inevitable unless it was a vacant building.
    Exactly. That's what's so shocking. It was an accident waiting to happen. The residents have (apparently) been saying this for years.

    They've shown footage of the "in case of fire" plaques that advise residents to "raise the alarm" (there was no alarm system, so the only way to do this would be to shout and bang on doors), to "stay put" in their flat (despite the fact that this advice should only have been given in a modern building with fire-proof layers between floors and flats), and to "use the equipment provided", despite the fact that there was none!!!

    I'm aghast that this could possibly happen in modern Britain. I'm not patriotic, nationalistic, or anything like that, but... I feel a strange sense of shame (even though it's not my fault) that people live in such obviously dangerous buildings in this day-and-age.

    The fact that money was spent on aesthetic cladding when the building didn't even have a sprinkler system is mind-blowing. It's as good as a Victorian slum if people's lives aren't considered important. This is the wealthiest borough in the country!

    If this building was owned by a private landlord instead of the council, there's no f***ing way this building would have been considered habitable. Absolutely shameful.

    The Labour MP for Tottenham has labelled the incident "corporate manslaughter" and has called for arrests to be made.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...-a7790911.html

    Within the last half-hour, it's been reported that police have announced that they have opened a criminal investigation into the fire.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...-a7792446.html



    Quote Originally Posted by Maxx View Post
    Like I said, we didn't get much detail.
    Interesting. I was wondering how much coverage this would get in the US (and other countries). It's literally been wall-to-wall TV news coverage for two days here, with hardly any other news at all. Obviously it's a tragedy and deserves a great deal of coverage, but I'm a little surprised at the extent of the TV coverage here.



    Quote Originally Posted by Starrunner View Post
    The building had a tenants' association which repeatedly called for an investigation into the management's incompetence and had warned over the past eighteen months that the building was a firetrap.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-1...e-risk/8617632
    Incompetence?! Starrunner, you're far too polite!

    As Maxx says, just look at the safety advice, and then consider (what we know about) the building. This wasn't just incompetence; this was criminal recklessness.

    As an aside, the footage of May and Corbyn's appearances at the site have been interesting. May spoke to the officials and promised an investigation; Corbyn met the people affected, listened to them, reassured them, hugged them and promised that lessons will be learned. Corbyn used to be useless at PR, but now he's coming across as much more Prime Ministerial than May.

  8. #8

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    more a travesty than a tragedy.

    ditto much of what tiny said, and also Ken Livingstone,

    "Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has told the BBC that building regulations have been "undermined and reduced" in recent decades.

    "Forty years ago local councils were responsible for overseeing the construction of new housing and its management," he said. "That's been taken away and that accountability has gone."
    i watched that on the telly and he touched on a more wide-ranging issue of undermined and degraded standards than is quoted; and it's all stuff that i've moaned and ranted about over the years, too. how many times, over the past few years, have we been warned about the fire risks of one product or another? and such excused with the twaddle of 'different standards [over there, where they're made]'. foreign-made goods are flooding the land and nobody is bothered to check them for safety.
    the fact that this website exists, http://www.bs1363.org.uk/ , is another travesty by it's need and another example of how we're falling apart at the seams.

    and so, while 'they' buck-pass and side-step, saying how they met the [undermined and degraded] fire regulations, it still stands that they have a duty of care under The Health and Safety at Work Act as the relevant issues were long known.
    no doubt they'll all get Nuremberg-defensive when/if the time comes.

    anyway, to add a note of sarcasm, it was good see the local council were on the ball and jumped-to at first-light with a bucket of whitewash and a Dr. Richard Kimble excuse.


    and a special note of hate is deserved for the BBC reporter who was thrusting his microphone into the faces of those who were fleeing, bewildered and distressed and grieving, asking his shitty questions, as we're becoming so familiar with (like, "you've just had you legs blown off, how does that make you feel???").
    somebody punch him.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by ade View Post
    and a special note of hate is deserved for the BBC reporter who was thrusting his microphone into the faces of those who were fleeing, bewildered and distressed and grieving, asking his shitty questions, as we're becoming so familiar with (like, "you've just had you legs blown off, how does that make you feel???").
    somebody punch him.
    Absolutely. I didn't see that, but the insensitivity of reporters if often jaw-dropping in it's gory sensationalism. I don't know how anybody could be a journalist. It's like the main requirement is: "Must be an unscrupulous c***, who will stop at nothing to get a story."

    Another shameless c*** from The Sun allegedly impersonated a friend of a victim at hospital to try to get an interview:
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...ictim-hospital

    The Mail Online (the worst of the mainstream gutter press) has received over a thousand complaints about an article that focussed entirely on the man alleged to have (accidentally) started the fire:
    https://www.theguardian.com/media/20...100-complaints

    Protests have kicked off, with one group forcing their way into the local Town Hall, chanting, "We want justice!"
    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...into-town-hall

    After the criticism directed at Teresa May for her visit yesterday, when she failed to meet any of the affected residents of families of the victims, she today visited a local church to meet residents (in a very controlled way), and escaped from a side door to avoid meeting the people waiting outside to see her. She was furiously shooed off with people telling her to "fuck off", amid chants of "coward" and "shame on you".
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...-a7794106.html

    Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) has written an open letter to the PM, asking her to ensure that the people affected are re-housed immediately, and that if any other tower blocks could be at risk, those residents are also re-housed immediately.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...-a7793846.html

    And in terms of the cost-saving involved, the cladding cost around 8.6M. A sprinkler system would have cost about 200k.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40279944

    And if just 5k extra had been spent on the cladding, it would have been fire-resistant:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk...-a7792781.html

    Still wall-to-wall news here, as you can see.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by tiny View Post
    Interesting. I was wondering how much coverage this would get in the US (and other countries). It's literally been wall-to-wall TV news coverage for two days here, with hardly any other news at all. Obviously it's a tragedy and deserves a great deal of coverage, but I'm a little surprised at the extent of the TV coverage here.
    On a normal day, it might have bumped a bit of the constant stream of anti-Trump faux news. With the Virginia shooting of a republican congressman, it had no chance. You just know the networks wanted to celebrate somehow, but that would have been over the top even for them.

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