Thursday, 28 June 2018

Grenfell Inquiry ~ Catching up

The fire:

On 14th June 2017 a fire ignited in 24-storey Grenfell Tower, Kensington, London.   Emergency services received the first report (999 call) of the fire at 00:54 BST.  The call related to a fire having broken out in Flat 16.   On receipt of the 999 call, fire engines were sent to the scene and the first arrived at 00:59 hrs.  During the earlier stage of the fire service response, the Incident Commander was Mr Michael Dowden.

The fire quickly spread through the building - see the images at BBC News 18 June 2018.   72 people died and many more were injured.

Ultimately, more than 250 London Fire Brigade firefighters and 70 fire engines were involved from stations all across London in efforts to control the fire.  Over 100 London Ambulance Service crews on at least 20 ambulances attended, joined by the specialist Hazardous Area Response Team, the Metropolitan Police Service and London's Air Ambulance.


An inquiry was set up by the Prime Minister.  The Inquiry is chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick and operates under the Inquiries Act 2005 with terms of reference as set out on 15th August 2017 - here.  The Inquiry was opened on 14 September 2017.  The list of Core Participants as at 8th June 2018 may be seen here.

See the Inquiry Website.    

In July 2017, the Inquiry held 3 public meetings - on 19 July 2017, 20 July and 25 July - and, on 14th September the Inquiry was formally opened.   The first procedural hearing took place over 11 and 12 December - see here and here.  A second procedural hearing was held 21 March 2018.  The next step was to hold 7 Commemoration Hearings during May 2018.  Opening statements took place on 4-7 June and Expert witness presentations over 18-20 June.  On 21 June the inquiry began to look at the Outbreak of the Fire and this continued during the week beginning Monday 25 June.  One element in the inquiry terms of reference is to examine the response of the London Fire Brigade to the fire.


The rapid spread of the fire has, from the outset, been attributed to the exterior cladding which had been applied in 2016.  On 30 August 2017, an independent review of building regulations and fire safety was announced - see the terms of reference and this issued an interim report in December 2017 and a final report in May 2018 - see the Hackitt Review.

Five further report are helpfully summarised at BBC News 4 June 2018.   These are:

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid - Cause and spread of fire - Read the full report

Dr Barbara Lane - Fire protection measures - Read the full report

Professor Luke Bisby - Ignition of the facade materials - Read the full report

Professor Jose Torero - Spread of the fire - Read the full report

Mr Colin Todd - Statutory and regulatory requirements - Read the full report

The Police:

Investigations by the Police are continuing - The Guardian 7 June 2018

Viewing the Inquiry:

Proceedings may be viewed either live or recorded via the Inquiry website.  The BBC is producing podcasts to outline the main features of each day of the proceedings - BBC The Grenfell Tower Inquiry with Eddie Mair.

Evidence of Mr Michael Dowden:

As mentioned above, Mr Michael Dowden was "Incident Commander" during the earlier stage of the fire service response.  His evidence to the inquiry may be seen HERE.

Mr Dowden's written statement to the inquiry reveals that he was Watch Manager of Red Watch at North Kensington and in charge of a team of 12 people. (He actually had 11 at the time).  The role of Watch Manager is important but it is not a particularly high rank in the fire service and is certainly not a rank at which policy matters are determined.  Over 3 days - 25-27 June - Mr Dowden was taken through his actions on the night during the time when he was incident commander.  That role was later assumed by more senior officers.  In total, Mr Dowden was incident commander for about one hour.

At the conclusion of Mr Dowden's evidence, there was this exchange:

MR MILLETT:  Mr Dowden, I have no more questions for you. I just want to thank you, both personally and on behalf of the inquiry, for your courage in standing there for three days and answering my questions.  Your evidence has been enormously helpful to our work and I think we, as a team, salute you.  Thank you very much.

SIR MARTIN MOORE-BICK:  Well, I would like to echo what Mr Millett has said.  I'm really grateful to you for coming to give your evidence, and you've given it, in my view, with courage and candour and without shying away from the difficult questions, of which I'm afraid there have been many. In doing all that, I think you've set a really good example to those who may be asked to come and give   evidence later on, so thank you very much indeed.  As Mr Millett said, I think you should know that your evidence is really very valuable to us and we're all very grateful to you. So thank you very much.  I'm sorry it's been such a difficult time.

THE WITNESS:  That's okay.

It was clear throughout that Mr Dowden sough to answer questions as accurately as he could and it was abundantly clear that Grenfell had affected him very deeply.  The inquiry is there to establish the facts but whether Mr Dowden's treatment was entirely fair is for others to judge.  The Fire Brigades Union does not think so - see their statement in which they state that the "line of questioning toward Mike Dowden has been, at times, absurd."  They go on to claim that the inquiry is approaching issues back to front - "the order of the inquiry is chronologically and causally wrong."

Against that view is the Inquiry's decision to try to establish all the details of the night (Phase 1) before going on to examined issues relating to details of the building refurbishment etc (Phase 2).

28th June 2018:

The Inquiry heard from Mr Charles Batterbee and Mr Daniel Brown - the fist firefighters who got to Flat 16 .  See the Grenfell Inquiry Website for the full recording of the day and hear the podcast about the days events - BBC Radio Podcast - the first firefighters in Flat 16.

29th June 2018:

Mr Daniel Brown's evidence continued.  The Inquiry then heard from Mr Badillo - Inquiry website and the BBC Radio Podcast.  Amongst other matters, problems with radio communication at the scene were highlighted.

The inquiry continues on Monday 2nd July at 10 am with Phase 1 (5) -Remaining firefighter evidence - Firefighters who undertook active firefighting and search and rescue operations, LFB control room staff, and commanders who were responsible for the decisions taken on the night -
see Programme of hearings

See the Grenfell Inquiry website for a list of frequently asked questions.

Earlier posts:

15 November 2017 - Grenfell Tower Iquiry - update

15 September 2017 - Grenfell Tower – Inquiry underway but criticism persist

5 September 2017 – Grenfell Tower – Panel and Assessors

15 August 2017 – Grenfell Tower Fire – Inquiry Terms of Reference published

30 July - Inquiries - some update  

7 July - Grenfell - How long to an interim report

6 July 17 - Grenfell Tower updates

4 July - Local Authorities, Contingency Planning, Resilience

29th June - Grenfell Tower Inquiry Chairman

18th June - Criminal Liability of Corporations 

17th June - Mrs May is right to decide on an INQUIRY into Grenfell Tower Fire


Skwawkbox 27th June 2018

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