The Grenfell Tower fire: Background to an atrocity

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The Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017 was one of the most appalling tragedies of recent times and one which I and others have described as an atrocity. This is the worst fire in terms of fi re deaths within living memory in the UK. Police announced in November 2017 that 71 victims had been formally identified and that they believed all those who died had been recovered. Since then there has been a further death related to the fire. The fact that this appalling incident happened in one of the richest boroughs in the capital city of one of the richest countries in the world only increases the horror with which Grenfell should be viewed.

These deaths did not occur as a result of war or terrorism. Indeed had that been the case, we are likely to have seen more urgent and immediate action by central government. No, these deaths resulted from what started as a domestic fire, the sort of event that happens every day in the UK. A domestic fire is a terrible event for those concerned but it can normally be contained: firefighters regularly fight fi res in blocks of flats and other residential properties. So there are huge questions about how what started in this way became such an immense horror. Perhaps above all, it remains utterly shocking that hundreds of buildings have been deliberately wrapped in dangerous flammable material. We need to examine the regime – the systems of regulations, inspection and enforcement – which allowed this to happen. And we need to examine who allowed those systems of rules and regulations to come into place: these were political decisions.

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