Cloisters’ specialist fire service barrister, Martin Seaward, is acting for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the firefighters and control staff whom it represents at the ongoing Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
After many years representing the bereaved families of deceased fire fighters who died fighting fire, Martin is well placed to assist the FBU in the Grenfell Inquiry, the most important inquiry into the fire service and social housing since World War II. Martin has previously acted in the Inquests into previous high-rise fire tragedies at Harrow Court in Stevenage and at Shirley Towers in Southampton. He has wide experience of other firefighter fatalities, most recently at Paul’s Hair World in Manchester.
The FBU represents most of the men and women who were on duty as fire fighters and control staff on the night of the Grenfell Tower disaster. It is also concerned about the wider ramifications of the fire on the fire and housing sectors and on the fire and rescue service nationally.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick L.J. (Ret.) will examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the fire on 14 June 2017. It will establish the facts and will make recommendations as to the action needed to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.
On 7th June 2018, Martin delivered an opening statement to the inquiry in which he states the fire service “confronted a situation that was unprecedented in living memory in UK fire service.”
In his statement, Martin explained that “the fire presented challenges beyond their knowledge, experience, training and procedures. The firefighters were put in an impossible situation”
“The FBU wants to assist both the Grenfell Tower community, the inquiry and the fire sector nationally, to discover what went wrong and why, and to contribute to the making of recommendations to avoid a recurrence.
“The inquiry is asked to consider the extent to which Fire Fighters had procedures for and were trained in fighting cladding fires, recognising a breach of compartmentation, when to abandon the stay-put strategy and how to effect the evacuation of a high-rise building.
“The FBU invites the enquiry to consider whether there was a lack of national leadership, regulation and funding on the key areas.
“The FBU specifically recommend the creation of a national body to monitor, research, develop and advise the fire sector, and that body should include trade unions representing those who work in the fire sector.”
You can watch the video or read the full transcript of Martin’s opening statement here.
Martin concludes that in any event, there were limits to what the fire service could have achieved on the night of Grenfell Tower fire, the worst of its kind in the UK, given multiple breaches of compartmentation and its unprecedented rapid development. Martin emphasises his instructions from the FBU are to hold the Grenfell community of the bereaved, survivors and former residents, at the heart of the inquiry.
The inquiry is currently in phase 1, with expert evidence being heard from 18th June and witnesses giving evidence from 25th June.
For more information about the disaster and the inquiry, Martin recommends readers to access the information readily available on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry website: see here. For more information about the FBU, see here. This page will be updated as the inquiry progresses.