Seventy-two people died in the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Lawyers for the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in Britain almost five years ago testified during a hearing Monday that the failures of the London Fire Brigade "contributed to loss of life."
The hearing ends the latest phase of the years-long investigation into the June 2017 blaze, which seeks to examine why the residential tower was coated in flammable materials. Seventy-two people died in the fire and dozens were injured.
Monday's hearing included hours of closing statements from attorneys for the families impacted by the fire, as well as representatives for the Fire Officers Association, Fire Brigades Union and the London Fire Commissioner.
Investigators said in 2019 that firefighters knew of the risk in high rises but failed to prepare and plan for such a disaster.
Attorney Danny Friedman, who represents some of the families, filed a written closing statement ahead of the hearing.
"The difficult truth remains that the London Fire Brigade was brave at Grenfell Tower, but it failed in fundamental respects that contributed to loss of life and revealed serious shortcomings in the quality of its service," the document states.
Friedman outlined six points of failure by the London Fire Brigade, the first of which was ignorance of catastrophic construction risks.
"This foremost contribution of the [brigade] to the Grenfell Tower disaster involves a classic system error of failure to collectively take into account reasonably obtainable information."
He also said that the London Fire Brigade was incompetent in assessing risks at the building, had management weaknesses, lacked doctrines for high-rise residential evacuations and tolerated inadequate fire ground communications.
"All of these failures were foreshadowed by the Lakanal house fire in 2009, and the long-standing arrested development of organizational learning and modernization that should have taken place in the U.K. Fire and Rescue Services before the Grenfell Tower fire, but did not," he said in the document.
A second team of lawyers said there were "serious systemic failings and the inept leadership and management" at the London Fire Brigade.
Professor Leslie Thomas criticized the brigade for "institutional inertia" and said that it failed to "keep up with advances" due to poor management.
In closing arguments, the Fire Officer's Association concluded that Richard Welch, the borough commander for the London Fire Brigade, was "reasonably entitled to assume" that Grenfell Tower had been built safely.
The second phase of the inquiry is expected to conclude in a few months.