Union says longest ladder was about 100 feet
In this photo taken from video, smoke rises from a high-rise apartment building on fire in London, Wednesday, June 14, 2017. A massive fire raced through the 24-story high-rise apartment building in west London early Wednesday, sending many people to hospitals, emergency officials said. (Sky News via AP)
ROD NORDLAND, Dayton Daily News
LONDON – More lives could have been saved in the Grenfell Tower blaze in London that killed at least 80 people, firefighters say, but a lack of equipment, particularly fire engines with ladders high enough to reach the top floors of the 24-story building, impeded the rescue effort.
“We just think it’s almost criminal that an international city like London, the 13th-richest in the world, and our highest ladder only goes up 30 meters, where some Third World countries have 90-meter ladders,” said Lucy Masoud, a London firefighter and an official with the Fire Brigades Union.
The London Fire Brigade’s 30-meter ladder (about 100 feet) reached only to the building’s 10th floor, and was not called to the scene until nearly half an hour after other units when the blaze broke out in June, Masoud said Saturday.
Firefighters rescued 65 people from the blaze, but at least 80 more people died.
The delay in calling a fire engine with a high ladder, known as an “aerial” or “aerial appliance” in Britain, occurred because the blaze had been reported as having originated from a refrigerator on the fourth floor of the building, and firefighters who responded to that apartment thought they had the fire under control. They were unaware that flames were climbing the exterior cladding of the building, which many experts have said was not fireproof.
London’s firefighters do not have the tallest aerial fire engines in Britain, and had to get one from neighboring Surrey County. At a reported 217 feet high, that firetruck’s ladders reached just below the top of Grenfell Tower. But it did not arrive until several hours after the fire had started.
Firefighters were angry about that and other failings they believed contributed to the Grenfell disaster, said Masoud. She also blamed firefighting budget cutbacks of almost $170 million pounds in recent years for the lack of adequate equipment.
The firefighters union said that since 2010, 11,000 front-line firefighters’ jobs had been eliminated.
The spokeswoman confirmed that the London Fire Brigade had changed its procedures about a week after the fire so that a high-ladder truck would be among the first vehicles sent to a high-rise fire.
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