Grenfell-style disaster could happen again, says London Fire Brigade chief

'Fire safety in the construction industry is, I’m afraid, an afterthought,” says Andy Roe

Sunday Telegraph News, Property And Construction İndustry

11/28/2021 5:07:00 PM

'Fire safety in the construction industry is, I’m afraid, an afterthought,” says Andy Roe

Andy Roe was in command during the Grenfell fire and believes 'wholesale change' is needed in the construction industry to keep people safe

Dany Cotton had told the Grenfell Inquiry that she wouldn’t have done anything differently on the night. “I wouldn’t develop a training package for a space shuttle landing on the Shard,” she told the public inquiry, by way of explanation for why the London Fire Brigade (LFB) was so ill-prepared to tackle the fire in which 72 people were killed.

Andy Roe, her replacement as London Fire Brigade commissioner, is unlikely to make such a blunder when he appears before the Grenfell Inquiry next week. Roe, 47, is altogether smarter, street-wise and media savvy. A former captain in the Army and a keen amateur boxer, Roe is fighting to restore the brigade’s reputation after the battering it took in round one of the Grenfell Inquiry. “It was a hell of a time,” admits Roe, 47, who took over in January last year, adding: “Clearly there was a vast amount of improvement needed.”

Besides the fallout from Grenfell, the LFB was the subject of a damning inspectorate report and then the pandemic struck.On the night of the Grenfell fire – on June 14, 2017 – Roe took control at the scene, arriving at the tower block in west London at 2.30am and revoking the fatal “stay put” order 24 minutes later. He recalls standing beneath the tower when a man jumped from the tower and hit the firefighter standing six inches from him, the impact ripping off his leg. “It was a Syrian gentleman who had come to this country seeking refuge and lost his life in the most appalling circumstances,” says Roe, adding: “If you wanted a symbol of just how devastating that night was, that would be a very good example of how extreme it was.” headtopics.com

Cleo Smith: Man pleads guilty to kidnapping Australian girl

Dany Cotton had given the impression – true or otherwise – that her primary concern was for her firefighters and the LFB’s reputation, while Roe stresses his motivation is to “drive the change that the victims deserve and London deserves”. The bereaved had suffered “such immense loss but conducted themselves with such utter dignity,” he says, “that we owe it to the families, to their courage, to improve and do better”.

His is a mea culpa that had been missing for so long until the Grenfell Inquiry’s first report into events on the night made 29 separate recommendations for the LFB. The brigade says 23 have been completed. Roe declines to say what he would have done differently, insisting to do so would be “breaking the law” because he returns to give evidence at phase two of the public inquiry, but – controversially perhaps – he says: “It’s less about the night. It’s more about all the things that a very great number of institutions, including our own, should have done before the night.”

But he admits he couldn’t guarantee such a disaster won’t be repeated. It is a terrifying admission, but an honest one. “I think it would be entirely complacent of someone in my position to say that it couldn't happen again,” he says, “because actually, I think the history of London shows us that events of almost extraordinary scale and tragedy can happen.”

Australian Open: Navratilova blasts Peng Shuai T-shirt ban

It’s the opposite stance of Cotton who had insisted Grenfell was a one-off, no more likely than a UFO landing on a London skyscraper. In reality, cladding fires are not uncommon and more than four years on from the tragedy, an incredible 1,107 high-rise residential buildings in London are now deemed so unsafe – because of the cladding or problems with the design and build – that, in the event of a fire, residents must simultaneously evacuate as firefighters rush in. The controversial “stay put” policy unsuitable for those tower blocks, involving tens of thousands of residents, who go to sleep at night knowing their buildings are dangerous. headtopics.com

Roe is scathing of the time it is taking to remove flammable cladding and highly critical of the building industry and developers. The fixing “isn’t going fast enough,” a problem in part due to problems often in locating owners. “In London, it’s complex because you quite often have buildings held in offshore companies so, actually, even getting to the owner is difficult and establishing who is responsible is difficult.

“There needs to be a wholesale change to the way the construction industry approaches its business,” he says, adding: “I know how important a vibrant construction industry is to both London and the national economy, and I wouldn't want to stop that. But the industry does quite obviously need to build buildings that are safe and it is not lost to me that 60 per cent of the building consultations that come into our fire engineering team get sent back because we have concerns about the way that building is either being designed or being built.”

Thierry Mugler: French fashion designer dies aged 73

He doesn’t stop there. “Fire safety in the construction industry is, I’m afraid, an afterthought,” he says, calling on developers to, for example, sacrifice valuable space to install two staircases, rather than one, in high-rise blocks. Buildings abroad contain “a number of means of escape”. There’s no such plan in the UK.

Roe appears genuinely frustrated, genuinely upset for the families. “Grenfell is the most significant peacetime tragedy in UK history – the largest fire since the Second World War with the largest loss of life. We owe it to them to do better.”The grieving families and survivors have had to wait more than four years already – and will probably have to wait many more – for anyone, if ever, to be charged. That includes the LFB, but Roe says there are “millions of pieces of evidence” and that realistically to “do a proper job” will take the Metropolitan Police a very long time. headtopics.com

‘There is a great moral dimension to leadership’ A father-of-two, Roe does seem to understand things in a way his predecessor did not (publicly at least). It is possible his military experience has helped to give him a more rounded view of the disaster. His grandfather was a major general and Roe signed up for Sandhurst before a couple of operational tours of Northern Ireland that included the Omagh bombing. He was “blown up” when a pipe bomb was thrown at him. Roe survived miraculously but a colleague from the RUC – Catholic police officer Frank O’Reilly – was killed after spending four weeks on a life support machine.

“I was 23 years old and I think what it showed me is that if you are going to lead people in very difficult, high risk operational environments, there is a great moral dimension to that leadership. You are having to deal with people’s fear,” he says. “I have encountered that operational experience again and again and again in my career here [in LFB].

“I was extremely lucky. I was bruised, scratched. It damaged one of my eardrums, but I was almost untouched. It taught me a great lesson. Why him [Frank O’Reilly] and not me? If I had been standing six inches to the right, it would have been me. What that showed me is that life is fragile and that is something I have taken forward into this job.”

He had been working on 7/7 – the terror attacks in London in 2005 and saw the devastation and trauma first hand; the Finsbury Park terror attack when a van driver drove into mosque worshippers in 2016; the Croydon tram crash in 2016; and then Grenfell itself.

Read more: The Telegraph »

“I don’t feel like a free man” Ngannou future unclear after White snub😬 BEST BITS UFC 270 post-fight

►SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/SkySportsSubAfter retaining his UFC heavyweight championship, Francis Ngannou told the press that he was unsure why Dana White didn... Read more >>

Gove urged to reveal whether Grenfell cladding failed fire tests decade before blazeCladding test in 2002 ‘was a clear forewarning of what would happen at Grenfell 15 years later’, expert says It was a privilege coming across Geoffreypreud For a start I put $2000 and after 7 days I got my profits of $74,100, his precious and trust worthiness can't be aquated I bet yes We already know it did.

Brecon: Woman in hospital after fire in three housesAbout 30 firefighters called to blaze which began in one home and spread to two others.

Perth Scorchers’ WBBL triumph thrills but finals format fails to fire | Megan MauriceAdding an extra finals match like the IPL could create more excitement at the pointy end of the season wow TRFFFFMMPS MPs , Sports & Trumpians. The rocket Cup and Golf’s missile ball hit and the Targeted Man zone Fire in hole Boom The Dreamers lost their legendary One With a single Slapping Spit. Have breakfast with the rest of it. It’s a detail-able Information. Yucky ostrich’s.

Gove urged to reveal whether Grenfell cladding failed fire tests decade before blazeCladding test in 2002 ‘was a clear forewarning of what would happen at Grenfell 15 years later’, expert says It was a privilege coming across Geoffreypreud For a start I put $2000 and after 7 days I got my profits of $74,100, his precious and trust worthiness can't be aquated I bet yes We already know it did.

Boris Johnson bridge to Northern Ireland would cost over £300bn, review findsRail chief says costs are impossible to justify When you nurture such wild projects, your are at the end of your tether😑

Joe Sugg admits he'd love do Strictly Come Dancing for a second timeWho Do You Think You Are? star Joe Sugg says he'd like to revisit his history - by taking to the Strictly dancefloor again