Lakanal House fire, London

Six people were killed and at least 20 injured, including a firefighter, at Lakanal House after a blaze, caused by a faulty TV on the ninth floor, spread through the 14-storey building. The London Fire Brigade sent 18 fire engines to the incident, and firefighters rescued a number of residents trapped in their flats. 

So devastating was the blaze that a Metropolitan police investigation was launched, treating the incident as “suspicious”, considering that it could have been arson. A subsequent investigation by the London Fire Brigade, however, revealed that fire safety in the whole block had been compromised because of poor fire compartmentation between flats and corridors.

Southwark Council had been informed years before that if fire should occur it would spread rapidly. Ten years earlier, the council had scheduled the block for demolition but had a change of policy.

An inquest revealed that the fire “spread unexpectedly fast . . . trapping people in their homes,” and that plastic panels fitted into window frames burned through in just four and a half minutes.

In its conclusion, the inquest found that shoddy renovation work over years had actually removed fire-resistant materials between flats and communal corridors, and that Southwark Council had failed to spot this problem in its safety inspections.

Calls for an independent public inquiry were supported by the FBU, but none was conducted. Southwark Council was fined £570,000 in 2017 after pleading guilty to four charges of breaching safety regulations.

The FBU subsequently raised concerns about whether the lessons from Lakanal had been learned and whether the recommendations made by the coroner had been implemented.

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