The missed opportunities which could have prevented the Grenfell fire
In this timeline we look back at tragedies caused by fire and see what action has been taken to eradicate them from happening. Plenty of warning signs have been highlighted in recent years, yet a huge disaster like the Grenfell Tower fire still wasn't prevented.
London Building Act introduced
The London Building Act is passed by parliament on the eve of World War II.
London is under attack
It wasn’t long until the capital felt the full force of the Luftwaffe’s bombs, but London didn’t burn like the medieval German city of Dresden, attacked by the Allies.
National Building Standards introduced outside of London
The government passed the first set of national building standards for construction outside of London.
Deadly fire at the Summerland Leisure Centre, Isle-of-Man
In Douglas, on the Isle-of-Man, 50 people died after the Summerland Leisure Centre caught fire from a discarded cigarette. As was the case at Grenfell, there was no sprinkler system installed and its core building materials (cast acrylic sheets) were only theoretically tested under fire conditions.
The use of cladding is widespread
In the 1980s, the use of cladding was widespread in the construction industry, but the safety of these non-structural materials was to later come into question. A fire in 1988 in Royston Hill, Glasgow, and one in 1991 at Knowsley Heights, Liverpool, prompted an angry outcry. Both buildings were fitted with cladding, but in each case, the buildings’ occupants all escaped with their lives.
Newly installed rainscreen cladding spreads fire at Knowsley Heights, Liverpool
The fire was deliberately started when rubbish was set alight outside the 11-story Knowsley Heights tower block in Huyton, Merseyside. The flames began at the bottom of the building, and spread through a 90mm gap between the wall and the newly installed rainscreen cladding. The fire spread to all floors of the 11-storey building, causing extensive damage to the walls and windows of the building.
Disaster at Garnock Court in Scotland
Sadly, a 1999 fire in a tower at Garnock Court, Irvine, Scotland, proved more deadly, killing one man, and prompted a government select committee to hear evidence on the safety of cladding.
During the inquiry, Glyn Evans from the Fire Brigades Union called for tall buildings to be constructed from entirely non-combustible materials.
Scotland takes action on tower block safety
The Scottish parliament introduced new laws to enhance the safety of tower blocks, but the same measures weren't introduced elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Three die in fire at Harrow Court, Stevenage
An investigation of the fire found that there was an Abnormal Rapid Fire Development, caused by a candle melting the surface of a television, which then spread rapidly up the outside of the building to subsequent floors. Three people died, two of whom were firefighters, after going in to tackle the blaze without water because the dry riser had been padlocked shut against vandals, and the smoke alarms were not working.
Six die at Lakanal House fire in London
And, it was in England, four years later, when the Lakanal House fire in Camberwell - a mere eight miles from Grenfell Tower – resulted in the deaths of six people. A faulty TV set in a ninth-floor bedroom was the source of the blaze, and it wasn’t long until the fire in the 1950s tower block – which recently had cladding installed - got out of control.
Coroner's recommendations – including revisiting building regulations and the need to retro-fit sprinkler systems in high rise residential buildings – were ignored.
Sprinkler systems introduced in Wales
Wales introduced mandatory sprinkler systems to be installed in all new building, but England didn’t follow suit.
A warning before the Grenfell disaster
A fire one year before the Grenfell Tower tragedy occurred even closer to the site where 72 people lost their lives. A faulty tumble dryer on a seventh floor of a tower block in Shepherd’s Court, Shepherd’s Bush, London, ripped up the outside of the building.
Grenfell residents predict a disaster
Warnings were repeatedly raised by the residents of the Grenfell Tower, notably via the Grenfell Action Group, who said a serious loss of life would have to happen before any attention would be paid to residents' safety. The blog titled 'Playing with fire!', documents the dangers faced by those living in Grenfell Tower and the lack of action taken by the local council to address the safety concerns and issues.
The Grenfell Tower disaster
Grenfell Tower, a 24 storey tower block, burns, killing 72 residents. Just a month previously, the London Fire Brigade wrote to all London Councils warning them of the danger of external cladding. Will lessons be learnt?