London homes still have serious fire safety failings, says LFB chief
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Almost five years after the Grenfell Tower fire, the head of the London Fire Brigade (LFB), Andy Roe, has revealed that more than 1,000 residential buildings in the city still have serious safety failings.
Roe has described the fire safety failings as “extremely concerning”.
The 2017 Grenfell Tower fire was one of the UK's worst modern disasters. The fire broke out in the kitchen of a fourth-floor flat at the 23-storey tower block, raced up the exterior of the building and then spread to all four sides, killing 72 people.
As a result of a public inquiry into the causes of the Grenfell fire, Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a new Fire Reform White Paper that will address the fire risks of current buildings in the UK capital, and around the country.
LFB Commissioner Andy Roe welcomed the new legislation, but said more needs to be done to tackle dangerous structures and ensure residents know how to escape in the event of a fire. He also warned rogue property owners that the brigade will crack down on them “as soon as possible” under the new powers granted in the Fire Safety Act 2021.
“We have already warned London’s building owners and managers that this was coming and we will use these new powers if they aren’t meeting their legal responsibilities,” Roe said. “So we are again reiterating our calls that they need to take urgent action to fix their buildings if there are serious failings.”
The LFB will work with the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) and the government to ensure that safety checks are done in a consistent manner. However, Roe warned about the need for landlords to commit to protecting residents.
“We still need to see a culture change in the industry when it comes to fire safety in residential buildings,” he said.
Roe also urged the government to prioritise the outlining of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for buildings so that residents know what to do in the event of a fire. In response to the recommendations of the Grenfell inquiry, the government has launched a consultation to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.
“It’s vitally important that people feel safe in their own homes and have certainty about how to leave their building in the event of a fire or other emergency,” Roe said.
The government’s white paper also aims to “improve accountability” by transferring fire governance to an elected individual, who will oversee chief fire officers. Patel described the proposed legislation as “transformative” for the training of firefighters.
“The Grenfell tragedy must never happen again and we are continuing to drive forward progress on putting the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations into law,” she added.
The plans also include a 10-week public consultation where ministers will listen to people’s views before finalising a reform programme. Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, welcomed the reform and said his organisation will “carefully consider the paper and respond to the consultation”.
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