Grenfell firefighters deny response was affected by racism
Firefighters have strongly denied claims by a lawyer for some of the Grenfell Tower survivors that the way they responded to the blaze was affected by racism.
At the public inquiry into the disaster, counsel for the Fire Officers Association (FOA), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and London fire brigade rubbished the allegation from Imran Khan that there was “unconscious or some conscious racism” in the way firefighters responded to the blaze in the tower, which was home to a diverse community of people from all over the world as well as the UK.
\On Tuesday, Khan, representing 27 bereaved survivors and residents, said: “The use of … stereotypes, including in one instance referring to someone as ‘foreign’, in the statement of the firefighters on the face of it suggests unconscious or some conscious racism.
“We simply ask the obvious question: did it have any impact on the way individuals were treated that night?”
Martin Seaward, counsel for the FBU, said “that suggestion is offensive, it is wrong and it is unconstructive”.
Louis Browne QC, counsel for the FOA, said: “Issues of race, social class and religion played no part in the decision-making and actions of the firefighters who attended the fire at Grenfell Tower that night.
“What did motivate their decision making and actions was the desire to do all they could to save the lives of those who were in the tower.”
The opening statements on behalf of the firefighters and operations room controllers, 126 of whom will give evidence in the coming weeks, stressed their courage and the trauma they have endured.
Browne described the “life-changing consequences for many of the firefighters that attended” and said they were “deeply affected by the fact that they were unable to do more to save those who died”.
Seaward said some firefighters may have been affected by metabolic heat stress without knowing it. He said this can impair cognitive function including executive decision-making, coordination and memory recall.
He invited the inquiry chair, Sir Martin Moore-Bick, to ask “whether the firefighters were put in an impossible position”, given the numerous failures in the building allowed the fire to spread through the cladding and into the flats and the failures of the fire doors and other prevention measures.
The inquiry also heard that firefighters were not trained in dealing with the way the blaze spread and there was no procedure for an emergency evacuation.