The tragedy in Kensington

I have just heard of the tragic deaths and injuries in the flat fire. I send my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and my best wishes to all those injured for a speedy recovery. I thank all involved in saving people from the fire.

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52 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Indeed an appalling incident and worse still I suspect it was a totally preventable incident.

    Surely it was exacerbated by the green religion, the exterior insulation and the surface cladding. Apparently with instructions to tenants to stay in their flats and await rescue! Doubtless some politicians or bureaucrats (probably infected with the green/fashion/religion) who made the final financial decisions. Rather than some sound engineers and fire experts.

    It is usually superficial appearance over logic and reason every time with these people.

    Doubless someone will say “it is too early to speculate”, “and lessons will be learned” and the usual guff – but “speculate” is what you do before you have all the information and rightly so.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Rather a lot of cladding and insulation that might now have to be removed & rather rapidly – from countless tower blocks all over the place I suspect.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      The very unpleasant Jeremy Corbyn is already trying to make political capital out this appalling tragedy. Suggesting the problem is a lack of money for the state sector. Corbyn, like all socialists, thinks that more of other people’s money is the solution to everything.

      I am fairly sure, from looking at the footage, that it was all the money spent on the exterior insulation & cladding that was the main problem. Not a lack of money quite the reverse. This (together with the chimney effect that this creates) rapidly spreads the fire upwards through the outside of the building.

      This theory could easily be tested within a day or two, by a few decent engineers for almost nothing. But doubtless endless overpaid lawyers will take 15 years or so and £hudreds of millions to argue about it and come to no sensible conclusion.

      There must be thousands of towers in a very similar position they need attention rather rapidly. Councils have been cladding towers all over the place due to the green religion and trying to make them superficially prettier.

      A Hillsborough style cover up, already seem to be in the making from what I hear in some official statements. Where is a Richard Feynman (from the Challenger Disaster investigation team) when you need them to expose the simple reality?

      • Know-Dice
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:58 am | Permalink

        This (together with the chimney effect that this creates) rapidly spreads the fire upwards through the outside of the building.

        LL I’m pretty sure that investigations will show that this was the main reason for the rapid spread of the fire of course with the use of flammable insulation in the air space under the cladding.

      • NickC
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic, Yes Jeremy Corbyn is milking this tragedy for all he can wring out of it. There’s something really creepy about the man. But it is wrong footing Theresa May and the Tories. Again.

    • Bob
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      as you predicted Lifelogic, Theresa May has proclaimed that lessons will be learned.

  2. alan jutson
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Thoughts with those who suffered.

    Clearly the cause, and resultant speed of fire spread will need to be investigated properly by those experienced in such matters.

    Let us hope reasons can be found, so that future tragedies can hopefully be avoided.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      I think the cause is fairly clear already from the videos.

      I am sure that the competent engineers know what caused it already. I think the exterior insulation & cladding, recently added were the main cause of the problem. Once again the government “experts” and the burueaucrats, fire service officials & politicians have made a huge mistake I suspect.

  3. David Ashton
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. It is not just the residents who have suffered but the emergency services personnel who will have witnessed scenes no one should have to.

    Early eye witness reports say that the recently installed cladding on the external walls of the building caught fire at the initial source and then rapidly spread it over the entire building. I am sure the renovators would only have used materials approved by Building Regs, surely the regulations don’t permit flammable insulation panels. I hope this is investigated thoroughly and not whitewashed due to a conflict with the green agenda. I have an interest as my sister lives in a very similar high rise block in Chester which has just been clad in insulating panels of unknown ( to us) composition.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Most things will burn if they get hot enough and have enough oxygen. The “experts” in government have failed hugely here I suspect and spent billions making tower blocks more dangerous. Much of it will need undoing & quite rapidly.

      • David Ashton
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

        LL I agree with your above comments, but as a graduate chemist I know that all things do not burn. I don’t know what is used to clad high rise buildings but rock wool based products would not have burnt and these can be encased in nonflammable panels.

  4. stred
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    It looks like the worst fire in a high rise ever. From the floor plans shown in the Guardian, it appears that the flat entrance doors open directly into a single lobby and fire escape stair with lifts. There are strict regulations about escape routes and distances and, for such a high block, it is surprising to see no alternative escape.In my experience when inspecting social housing projects, the tenants almost always removed or blocked fire door closers. Exterior cladding systems should have fire stops between floors and party walls, but these do not seem to have worked. Building regulations are administered by the LA for their own projects and the attitude is very different to a private application.

    In south London it was found that, when a block of flats caught fire, residents were told by the Fire call centre to stay in their flats, and some of those that did perished, but those that ignored advice did not. The fire also spread outside the building. Lessons were to have been learned.

    • stred
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:56 am | Permalink

      There are also regulations, which have been in force for at least 40 years, covering spread of flame and combustibility. When this high rise was built, London was controlled by District Surveyors, unlike the rest of the country, which was covered by the Building Regulations. There were also codes of practice.

      Even in low rise flats there were requirements for alternative escape routes, alarm systems and dry risers or pipes for the fire brigade to pump water up to the higher parts. The firemen here had to use the single stair and could not reach the upper part with hoses. The outer insulation cladding was clearly burning and had been fixed to columns between flats with a triangular space behind, all visible on the photographs.

      There has been an exterior insulation programme of high rise flats all over the country and the fire in South London had been referred to the Minister, Mr Barwell. this could be very expensive in terms of life and remedial measures. All they had to do was follow existing codes and regulations. Building Control usually insists on very onerous measures such as fire doors and alarms in existing 2 storey houses with a loft room, when occupants can escape through the rooflight or stairs in seconds. This event seemed like a third world shambles.

      • Bob
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        @stred

        “This event seemed like a third world shambles.”

        Indeed it did.

  5. Axed
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    In the floods in The North last year, one large helicopter was out of action for repairs and no other large chopper was available across the length and breadth of the UK plus the North Sea oilfields to move concrete blocks to stop further flooding..there resulted great loss of property.
    Today no large helecopter was in evidence either for pouring water ( you’ll find buckets of it in the Thames..it’s a river )on the flames or mounting any rescue whatsoever from the roof top or top flats.
    Doesn’t the Defence department do helicopters..they are twirling things whizzing round at the top with a kind of sterident looking thing below for passengers and cargo? Putin has a big chopper for his personal use. Also Russian larger scale choppers are availble for lease as are gigantic transport planes which the USA lease for use in Iraq. If the UK had resonable relations with Russia which as any modern state should, it could lease choppers for civilian and military use like America. That is to be a proper country and government and not a pathetic grandstanding one attempting to hit well above its weight and global significance.

  6. Short of the mark
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it about time the British Army, RAF and Royal Navy got the hell back to Blighty to protect our country, using their personnel and available machines to cover terrorist attacks and floods and fires and other civil emergencies?
    Fire engines with hoses and ladders 10 floors short of the fire from below is a pathetic response despite getting to that short point in 6 minutes.

    • Bob
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      @Short of the mark

      “a pathetic response despite getting to that short point in 6 minutes.”

      Response time is critically important, but so is having the right equipment when they arrive.

  7. forthurst
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Clearly there needs to be a public enquiry and the owner of ‘the’ fridge should not be blamed.
    On the face of it, it looks like less than third world standards were applied across the board. Another question would be as to why was it so imperative that all those living in this block should have been housed in a location in such a strategic location near the beating heart of a major economic hub and the capital of the United Kingdom.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Well said.

      This fire is like some disaster you might see in a third world country. But in central London, our capital city, and in 2017. Shameful.

      Thoughts with those who died and their families, of course.

    • APL
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      forthurst: “On the face of it, it looks like less than third world standards were applied across the board. ”

      Huh!

      Gawd: “Colleagues who have worked far more than myself in London, and every day, always related that no-one knows anyone else”

      When I lived in London in a very modest block of Flats in Tottenham, I lived there for about three years, and in all that time, struck up a passing acquaintance with my immediate neighbor who lived in his one bedroom flat with his wife and young child. We were all there voluntarily, not thrust together by the council.

      There was no close knit community. It noteworthy too, the BBC pushing the religious cohesiveness of the imaginary ‘community’. Gotta get your good PR where – ever you can manufacture it.

  8. agricola
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    While I agree with everything you say, let’s hope it does not become one of those “Lessons will be learnt” incidents which in effect means that everyone covers their backsides, does little, and waits for the next one.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Well it will be I suspect, it usually goes like this:-

      To early to speculate, not appropriate to speculate, we will have to wait for the enquiry, we cannot comment at is is the subject of on going legal actions, we cannot comment until the enquiry report is published in full, now we finally have the report we can assure you the system now is completely different from how it was, all those years ago, lessons have been learnt, the people in charge have all changed, those at fault have been retired or rather paid off ……… and then we have the next similar disaster.

      In the mean timeloads of lawyers & bureaucrat make a fortune for doing nothing of any value!

      • hefner
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

        Difficult not to agree.

  9. Gawd!
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    Nauseating to hear on the back of deaths and woundings that we get the political “Community Brigade” talking of “The close-knit community” . Even in fairly stable northern England council housing estates many people do not knowthe name of their next door neighbour. Colleagues who have worked far more than myself in London, and every day, always related that no-one knows anyone else. ( These were terraced or semis )”The next door neighbours haven’t a clue what they even look like. In blocks of flats you don’t actually see or hear anyone on other floors. The “local pub ” is full of people in groups, and it is far from full of local people anymore, four or five to a group and theri partners may have just been tonight’s pick-up , many only knowing a first name, of their one group. Few people are “regulars” in the sense of the Cornation Street pub the Rovers Return . This idea of “The community” where everyone does different jobs is bringing silly naive “progressive”politics into a very sad situation. Give it a rest! Show some respect for the grieving!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      The BBC & State Sector agenda is always rather nausiating.

      Why do they not look for the real causes, for those really at fault and real solutions. Then try to prevent any recurrance.

      But no they would rather push the BBC’s fairy story.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

      I agree with the gist of this.

      The exact same can be said for other parts of the country, rich, average or poor (and other countries like us). And just like to add, there’s a palpable sense of deep melancholy as well (sometimes/often people try and cover this up with a manufactured kind of cheerfulness).

      I strongly believe the only solution is for people to return to traditional Christianity: not just morals but also spirituality and believing that there is Someone greater than us – the only Person who can really sort out our sorry mess – if we would let Him.

      In fact, if more people did, this country could be amazing.

      • APL
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        Ed Mahony: “I strongly believe the only solution is for people to return to traditional Christianity:”

        Good luck persuading the BBC to promote that line. They’d all rather choke on their own feet that consider the possibility.

        Captcha seems to be disabled this morning?

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Is seems likely to me that the powers that be have made huge errors with tower block fire safety. With the insulation, cladding and the stay in your flat instructions given. Hopefully we will not get another Hillsborough type of cover up.

    Many such blocks have rented been similarly clad three large ones in Swiss Cottage I saw being done and wondered about fire safety at the time. Providing a way for fire to go rapidly up the outside of a building seems an absurd oversight.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Recently ( not rented)

    • Caterpillar
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      Dear Lifelogic as engineer, given the two rumours we hear 1) flammable cladding spreading quickly or 2) non flammable outer cladding making a chimney between building as cladding, I cannot help wonder why there are not weak point attachments that burn more quickly or melt from heat below do cladding falls away to stop spread. Is there an engineering reason that makes this impossible.

    • alan jutson
      Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

      lifelogic

      I agree insulation on the outside seems like a daft idea as it simply does not stand the test of time like brick, concrete, slate or tile, all of which have a much greater design life in our sometimes high exposure weather conditions.

      Insulation should be kept as close to the inside as possible, as that is where it is most effective.

      Some insulation materials can be used as effective fire barriers as well as insulation, others are rather less suitable for all round performance.

      I was in the Construction insulation industry for a while (very many years ago) even attended British Standards discussion meetings from time-time.

      I will wait and see what the investigations bring forth.

  11. graham1946
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Why are we still building these monstrosities? I know this was an old one, but they are still going up and we have known since the sixties that they are hell holes to live in and don’t really save all that much land. Better get back to terraces which at lest are on the ground and don’t act like chimneys. The words of the Fire Commander in the ‘Towering Inferno’ have stuck with me for years when he was talking to an architect ‘One day you’ll ask us how to build these things, my door is open’. No pumps can reach these heights.

    • rose
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      These monstrosities – what the Eastern Europeans call “architecture of the socialist era” – were put up in the sixties and seventies. By the eighties and nineties, architects – who live in Georgian houses themselves – and bureaucrats, finally accepted what we all thought about them. Unfortunately, the no borders extremists, who are now queuing up to denounce KCC and the government, then truimphed, and their lunacy resulted in the buildings not being demolished as they would have been, but “refurbished”.

      No-one, least of all families with five children, should be living in these skyscrapers. It will never be safe. Firemen cannot cope with skyscrapers. But the young men in charge want more of them, to house the overpopulation they believe in.

      • rose
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        And you are right about terraces: they are much more land efficient or whatever the jargon is.

  12. Cheshire Girl
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    As always, we owe an enormous debt of thanks to the Fire Service, the Police and the Ambulance and medical services. They are the heroes of the hour. They deserve adequate funding, and much respect.

  13. margaret
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    What another sad day ,so much happening and little I can do

  14. Anonymous
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    London is so crammed with people it is a tinder box. Is this the fire brigade equivalent of Rochdale ? Top of the leading fire officer’s profile is concern about diversity and inclusivity in the fire service – not fire fighting.

    How did this building pass inspection ?

    Are the authorities ignoring overcrowding and rogue city landlords ? Of course they are !

    • Anonymous
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      Residents were complaining long before the cladding was applied that this building was a death trap.

      A London determined to get its workforce on the cheap is what has debased fire safety, and disease safety for that matter (the return of TB.)

      There will be no way of working out who – nor how many – were in that building.

      Those against such things are not against minorities but against a system which drags us all down.

  15. Ken Moore
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Dreadful news today.

    Those of us complaining that immigration is at unsustainable levels making it impossible to safely absorb so many extra people have to be heard. It is clear that safety standards need to be raised considerably at a time when councils are struggling to provide housing that barely meets existing standards. London just simply cannot go on like this.

    Had we kept immigration at lower levels, housing standards could and should have been improved considerably.. instead we are forced to bodge up older properties when everywhere is bursting at the seams simply to put roofs over heads.

    I’m thinking tonight of all the homes of multiple occupancy many of which are accidents waiting to happen….but the councils often turn a blind eye as they know the people have nowhere else to go in London.

  16. Nothing to learn
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    There is nothing to learn about fire.
    We’ve been dealing with it for thousands of years. It is one of those things we all know about.
    What we need to learn is how to arrest, charge and imprison people.Then do it. Then keep them there.

  17. Augustyn
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Comarade Corbyn gave a heartfelt, believable, distraut delivery of grief and compassion. Meanwhile May was not visible. Our dear good friend Saint Theresa ..”…

    • Voter Got it
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Augustyn
      Didn’t realise she is a convert.

  18. Upwards!
    Posted June 14, 2017 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    “The tragedy in Kensington ” is repeated everywhere in high rise developments. You see, fire flues upwards. It’s just one of those things. Works every time. Loves narrow passages with occasional obstacles to make it squirt in a manner of speaking increasing its pressure and velocity..like in a stairwell with firedoors..it behaves like water running down,- though of course upwards in the opposite direction. Simple really. Fred Flintstonish, unless you are paid a salary and go on a three year course to study it and then have a Local Authority pass the buck to a private or semi-private social entity. There the simplicity is lost and you need to jail people.

  19. Clever Dick
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Telling people on the top floor of a 21 storey block to stay put with a fire obviously heading their way is insane. Would you have told the Germans living at the bottom of the bouncing bomb dam to stay put?

  20. Anna
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    There are indeed many questions to be answered about this horrific tragedy. The UK has some of the most stringent fire regulations in the world yet such horror occurs. We can speculate on the causes, but what concerns me is that the tenants themselves on numerous occasions had drawn the management’s attention to possible hazards and there is the evidence to prove this in existing letters and blogs. Whatever the causes of the fire, whoever ignored these concerns bears a heavy responsibility, Had the concerns been followed up, this disaster might have been prevented.

    • stred
      Posted June 15, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      Just turned on the LBC for traffic and heard 2 lefty fire experts saying that the reason people died is the lack of staff and inspections because of cuts and therefore the politicians are guilty of murder etc. It took anyone with previous knowledge of fire regulations about five minutes to see on the tv screen that none of them were working and that the design and materials could not have been right.

      The residents association had written to the local authority and managing agent numerous times and the building had been inspected. The only explanation is that escape and fire fighting routes were inadequate and that materials and detailing did not meet standards. The design was ‘in-house’ and the inspection should have been done by the local authority. All of the senior staff would have been very highly paid.

      • stred
        Posted June 15, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

        Listening again to LBC while unable to travel owing to the usual road deaths and police enquiry, there are lots of people, including Jeremy, saying that sprinklers are the answer. Unfortunately, they cause huge damage when anyone sets fire to a chip pan. Also, they don’t squirt water onto the outside of the building and put out burning cladding when the wrong insulation is chosen.

        Could I offer a hint. Private landlords are using a new invention which vapourises water into a mist under high pressure inside flats and maisonettes. It does not destroy the building and may cost far less than replacing the whole building or even a sprinkler system.

        Many people all over the country are now worried about being immolated and a public enquiry will take years, waste millions and save no-one. Well done Mrs May but this is another embarrassment. What is needed is a team of independent people to take off insulation panels all over the country, send them to the BRE or university labs and test the material to find whether it is incombustible or not- in days not years. If not then go through the paperwork to find out who cocked up.

  21. Redder
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Terrorists know from 9/11 that firing the upper middle of the top of a High Rise building utterly prohibits effective defence by a firebrigade at the bottom of the building. It drops debris on to lower levels carrying the base of the fire lower and literally killing firefighters by weights.
    Allied Bomber Command in the War in their firebombing of German cities creating firestorms first circled the target with fire and dropped fire in the exact centre looking also to the wind direction. They knew the fire placements would drag in air from outside accelerating and squirting raw firepower towards the centre, boiling rivers and melting human flesh into waxen pools. Yet our authorities have not learned the lessens of attack and therefore their architecture and fire defence structures for buildings are the exact oppostite of what is required for defending even a passive environmental fire development by incompetence of various kinds.
    Think attack not defence and sack local authority architects! Or get them sto study Bomber Command and sabotage tactics. For, that comes next.

  22. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted June 15, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    We couldn’t afford fireproof cladding on the tower block but we can afford to spend a vast sum of money on a Public Inquiry, on lawyers and barristers, those masters of the negative sum game. That sounds like a false economy.

    Perhaps Mr Redwood might care to explain the complexity of our laws and the vast number of levels of appeal in terms of the considerable number of qualified lawyers among MPs. They wouldn’t by any chance be good at making work for themselves, would they?

  23. stred
    Posted June 16, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I was amazed to read reports that a fire resistant insulation board was offered but the ordinary board was chosen to save £2/ sq m on a high rise block. Also, the project was allowed to go ahead without plans approval and handled by Kensington Building Control by inspection and final certificate. The drawings have Kensington council and the management association on the side logo.

    The project was therefore designed and specified in- house and inspected in-house, with slightly cheaper materials for cladding but the whole project still cost £10m. They did not think sprinklers were appropriate.

    I have looked at the cost of alternative vapour fire extinguishing systems and on a big block it could be a bit less than sprinklers at c. £2k per flat. 120 flats = £240k, or the value of one flat or 2.5% of the project. I read that the chief officer is paid £350k pa. The public enquiry is likely to cost more than the project.

    Will heads roll? Don’t think so.

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