Earlier this week the London Fire Brigade (LFB) published its long-awaited enforcement report into the New Providence Wharf fire in May 2021. There is no better way to describe the quality of the report than ‘underwhelming.’
The New Providence Wharf fire required the rescue of 35 residents by LFB from smoke-logged floors. At the time of the fire, ACM cladding remediation had not commenced, despite it being 4 years post-Grenfell. It’s important to note that the external wall was not pertinent to this fire and the need for a rescue operation.
The fire started in a power distribution board sited in a flat entrance hallway. ‘Debris’ stopped the flat entrance door from closing when the occupant self-evacuated. Smoke from the fire logged the corridors, whilst the Fire Alarm and AOV System were (at the time of the fire) inoperable. Worse still, maintenance engineers were aware of the system failure.
LFB investigated the circumstances of the fire and concluded not to proceed with the prosecution of any parties involved.
Here’s the kicker…
By their own admission, LFB loosely accepted that they did not gather the necessary evidence at the time of the fire, due to prioritising immediate works. We know from residents that these works, to make the parts of the building unaffected by the fire safe, were ongoing through the night. The focus was to get displaced residents back into their homes.
Actions somewhat similar to the Police opening up a crime scene to the public before the Scenes of Crime Officers arrive to collect evidence. Here is how LFB describe their own action/inaction. The full and somewhat flimsy LFB enforcement decision for the New Providence Wharf fire can be downloaded at the bottom of this article.
LFB state that: “This learning has since been implemented.” My thoughts on this statement are along the lines of: “LFB, you personally presided over the worst loss of civilian life in a dwelling fire since WW2, in June 2017. You have been chastised by a public inquiry; was that not the trigger you needed to up your game?”
We now look ahead to the introduction of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 in just a few days time. What confidence can the public have in the ability of LFB to enforce those regulations, which were written in response to the Grenfell Inquiry recommendations?
When will The Home Office and Fire Service start taking Fire Safety and their enforcement duties seriously?