UK

Grenfell Tower inquiry: LFB 'failed residents and firefighters'

Dany Cotton in Grenfell Tower Image copyright Grenfell Tower Inquiry
Image caption Dany Cotton, second from right, in Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire

Grenfell Tower residents and firefighters were let down by London Fire Brigade's leaders, a lawyer for the victims has said.

Sam Stein QC told the public inquiry into the fire that commissioner Dany Cotton and her leadership team were "not fit to run" the emergency service.

The brigade said it would be unfair for it to be judged before all the evidence was heard.

A total of 72 people were killed as a result of the fire in June 2017.

Mr Stein told the inquiry in London that Ms Cotton should have been well aware of the "dreadful failings" within the fire brigade that had been identified in the hearings, by the time she came to give her evidence.

But he added: "This condemnation of the leadership of the fire brigade of London should not be taken to be an insult to those on the front line."

"No-one can or should forget the sheer bravery and determination of the individual firefighters who risked their lives in the Grenfell Tower."

Another victims' lawyer, Danny Friedman QC, said there was "overwhelming evidence" the brigade had failed to plan for such a scenario.

Mr Friedman said the fire service knew there was a risk of a high-rise fire which could require evacuation.

But he said that knowledge did not filter down to firefighters in a "terrible gulf between paper and practice".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dany Cotton speaking to Theresa May the day after the fire

He also said that the brigade had been brought into disrepute by Ms Cotton's evidence to the inquiry from September, in which she said she would not change any part of the brigade's response to the fire.

"Not only were these comments insulting to the bereaved, survivors and residents, but they were irresponsible," Mr Friedman said.

"They sent a wholly negative message about the LFB's capacity as an organisation to acknowledge its shortcomings and to make any real change in the future."

The first phase of the inquiry has been examining what happened when the fire broke out on 14 June 2017.

Phase two of the inquiry, due to begin early next year, will look at the refurbishment of the tower block, including the cladding and insulation.

It will also look at the concerns and warnings residents expressed about the fire safety of the building.

Stephen Walsh QC, representing the London Fire Brigade, said the fire was the "biggest challenge to any fire service in the UK in living memory".

"Its policies, procedures and training were strained to their limits and in some respects well beyond, that is accepted," he said.

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Media captionDany Cotton says she wanted firefighters to know she was there for them as they went into the tower

Ms Cotton previously told the inquiry that she provided "direct leadership" on the night of the fire.

She said she hoped by going into the tower herself she was showing the firefighters they were all in it together.