Image above: Firefighters join a Justice For Grenfell march in central London
Firefighters unable to work again due to severe trauma
The union representing firefighters across the UK has announced that the claims for its members injured in the Grenfell tragedy have been settled for £20m in the High Court.
The claims were brought by 114 firefighters, some of whom have been unable to work again due to severe trauma, for personal injury and loss caused by alleged negligence and breach of statutory duty when they attended the blaze on 14 June 2017 in the 24-story Grenfell Tower block of flats in west London.
National law firm Thompsons Solicitors represented the firefighters supported by The Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
The defendants in the claim included Arconic Architectural Products, Celotex and Rydon Maintenance Limited, who were the companies which made the combustible cladding and designed and built the refurbishment to the exterior of the building, which contributed to the fire’s spread. Other defendants included the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and the London Fire Commissioner.
The blaze was the deadliest in the United Kingdom since World War II, resulting in 72 deaths and leaving many residents injured and homeless. The Public Inquiry into the blaze will provide its final report this year.
The settlement for the firefighters follows the High Court settlement earlier this year for nearly 900 cases on behalf of the bereaved, survivors and residents affected by the tragedy.
The High Court clarified that these settlements pertained only to civil court damages claims and did not impact the ongoing Public Inquiry or the potential for any criminal charges in the future.
Image above: Chiswick Fire Station
Crew from Chiswick one of the first on the scene
A crew from Chiswick was one of the first on the scene when the Grenfell tower block caught fire. Alan Moore, the watch manager on the night, told The Chiswick Calendar that initially the order was ‘make 10 pumps’ – ie. 10 fire engines needed.
That had changed to 20 before they left the station and 25 before they got to the end of the road, indicating the severity of the fire and how quickly it escalated. In the end there were 40 crews in attendance from all over London.
When they got there their first job was to bring up the hoses and breathing equipment to a combined equipment dump and to secure water for the ariel platform. Then almost immediately on arrival they went in. He described the one staircase as “not wide, full of smoke and pitch black.”
Alan was then made safety officer for sector one, the main door, the one way in and out. The rest of his crew – two pairs of two – made it to the 9th and 20th floors respectively, bringing down a family of three from the 9th floor and four people from the 20th floor. You can read a full account from an interview five days after the fire here:
Image above: The burned remains of Grenfell Tower – photograph Ben Sutherland; Grenfell Tower with the fire damage covered over – photograph Loz Pycock
Firefighters have been “deeply affected by the horrors they witnessed”
Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said:
“The aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy is a stark reminder of the systemic failings of building safety and government accountability. Firefighters, many of whom have been deeply affected by the horrors they witnessed, continue to advocate for those living in unsafe conditions.
“This was a crime of deregulation and negligence – a consequence of private profit being prioritised over public safety. Nearly seven years later, the fight for justice and change goes on. The Fire Brigades Union stands shoulder to shoulder with the victims and survivors of Grenfell Tower, and with leaseholders and campaign groups across the UK.
“We demand that the government takes urgent action to ensure such a disaster never recurs, and that there is meaningful accountability for a tragedy born out of disregard for human life.”
Vincent Reynolds from the personal injury team at Thompsons Solicitors, who represented the firefighters, said:
“The Grenfell Tower fire left an indelible mark on the firefighters who responded to the call. Many bear the psychological scars of that night, struggling with trauma from the harrowing experience. Their testimonies reveal the profound personal sacrifice of showing such extraordinary courage in the face of an impossible situation.
“The incident exposed them to unimaginable scenes and sparked a deeper reflection on fire and building safety policy. Their experiences on that night and in its aftermath highlight the human element of firefighting, underscoring their commitment to their duty despite the immense risks and emotional toll.
“We hope this settlement brings closure of a sort for these firefighters, although we know that for many, the injuries will last a lifetime.”