The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is urging the inquiry team and the government to listen to firefighters, emergency fire control operators and to the FBU itself, as their democratic and independent voice, when the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower disaster gets underway. The deadline for submissions from interested parties on the terms of reference for the inquiry is today.
Amid concerns that the inquiry will focus narrowly on simply what happened on the night of the fire, the firefighters’ union has asked questions about the wider safety regime and how such a devastating incident could even take place.
The FBU is urging the government to make the terms of reference for the inquiry as broad as possible, and to focus not just on the London Fire Brigade and Grenfell but on the resources available to all fire and rescue services across the country. The inquiry also needs to look at available resources in other areas where there is a risk of tower block fires, and at how cuts to the service would impact on any similar incidents. Fire safety checks, building regulations, fire safety legislation, deregulation and national standards are all covered in the FBU’s own submission to the inquiry.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This inquiry needs to have very broad terms of reference if it is to have a real impact on reducing the likelihood of anything like this ever happening again. It needs to look at, for example, the fact that government-funded fire research has virtually disappeared in recent years, all at the very time when new insulation and cladding systems have been introduced. So many factors contributed to make a perfect storm for this horrific incident to happen, and each of them needs to be examined and investigated in turn. Looking at one aspect of risk but leaving others unexplored will be utterly useless. We also want those at the very top – in central government – held to account. Their actions and decisions over recent years need to be thoroughly scrutinised. We urge those who are leading this inquiry to be thorough, to make the inquiry as wide ranging as possible, and to leave no stone unturned. Anything less would be an injustice to those who died and will do nothing to prevent a second Grenfell.”
The FBU, which has also made an application to be a core participant in the inquiry, hopes that the inquiry will make recommendations following its findings, just as the inquiries into the Kings Cross Station and Bradford City stadium fires did, and to make specific requirements of fire and rescue authorities across the UK and of governments.