Grenfell – the fire that should never have happened

01 November 2017

(Article by MATT WRACK, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, as featured in the November edition of the ASLEF Journal)


Wednesday 14 June 2017 is a dark day in modern British history. A nightmare date of death and destruction. I am sure everyone reading this will share my sense of horror at the appalling loss of life at Grenfell Tower that night.

The accounts of the victims are painful to read and listen to. Accounts of loved ones speaking to their families for the last time knowing they could not escape the flames are heart breaking. The terror of people not knowing whether their friends and family made it out of the building in time.

But how was this atrocity allowed to happen in one of the richest boroughs in the heart of the capital of one of the richest countries in the world? We appear to be a country unable to keep people safe in their own homes. Now it’s time for the tough questions.Matt Wrack


We demand a vigorous, thorough, and robust public inquiry with the survivors, victims and local residents all involved to hold to account the people who made the decisions which allowed this atrocity to occur. They say don’t politicise this fire, but behind Grenfell lies a chain of political decisions made by people in power, at local and national level, who deregulated public housing and the fire and rescue service, creating a perfect storm for the atrocity we now call simply ‘Grenfell’.

Firefighters were sent to fight a fire that should never have happened. The normal procedures they would follow for a tower block fire, developed over decades in order that firefighters can deal professionally and effectively with this kind of fire, could not be put into practice as the magnitude of Grenfell was unprecedented.

Firefighters became split from their teammates whilst navigating the burning building, with fire crews re-entering the burning building multiple times, breaking procedure at great personal risk to themselves. They did this to save as many lives as possible.


I am proud that practically every firefighter who responded to Grenfell is a member of the FBU and I am honoured to represent them. The next time trade unions come under attack by the press and politicians for the audacity of asking for a fair pay rise, we need to remind people of the queues of firefighters in breathing apparatus waiting to be sent into Grenfell Tower. Because that is what a trade unionist looks like.



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