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Grenfell Tower fire door problem not systemic, Housing Secretary claims

Doors in the tower were found to protect from fire for only 15 minutes – half the time expected.

Seventy-one people died in the fire last June (David Mirzoeff/PA)
Seventy-one people died in the fire last June (David Mirzoeff/PA)

Fire doors at Grenfell Tower could only hold back flames for half the time they were supposed to, investigators have found.

In revelations described as “shocking” by survivors, experts tested an undamaged door from the block and discovered it could only withstand a blaze for 15 minutes – not the 30 for which it was designed.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said the Government would carry out further tests, but there was “no evidence that this is a systemic issue”, and the risk to public safety was low.

The Metropolitan Police announced the developments as the force continues a “comprehensive” investigation into the tragedy which left 71 dead last June.

Three glazed fire doors provided by the same company – believed to be Manse Masterdor – were found to offer less protection than guidelines recommend.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid made a statement to MPs in the House of Commons (PA)

It is understood they were installed as front doors to flats in the west London block between 2011 and 2012.

Synseal said it did not know which type of doors had been tested by investigators and that it “did continue to make a variety of fire doors previously supplied through Manse Mastedor”, but added “all the door styles had been tested and certified to British Standards produced by BSI Group”

The company took over Manse Masterdor’s trade and operating assets two years after the doors were installed.

Manse Mastedor remained a separate company and was renamed Litchfield Investments Limited in 2014. It is now in the process of being wound up.

Natasha Elcock, a survivor from the tower and a representative of the bereaved and survivors’ group Grenfell United, said: “It’s shocking – first the cladding and insulation then the doors. Who knows what else is putting people’s lives at risk?

“It’s time people’s lives are taken more seriously, and that includes everyone from every walk of life.

“People’s homes must be made absolutely safe for them and their children. The Government should have improved regulations after previous fires. We can’t listen to any more excuses.

“Grenfell United will not stop campaigning until the lessons of Grenfell are learnt. Nothing can bring our loved ones back but we must make sure a fire like this never happens again.”

Kensington and Chelsea Council, which owned Grenfell Tower, said tests were currently “inconclusive” and urged the Government to quickly provide clarity on the situation.

Mr Javid said his department had sought advice from its independent panel of experts on building safety and would provide further updates by the end of April.

He told the Commons: “Conclusions should not be drawn about the nature of the cause of the Grenfell tragedy – that is a matter for a separate police investigation and it must be allowed to run its course.”

Families from Grenfell Tower were told of the developments in a letter (Handout)

The statement was met with incredulity from the opposite bench, with shadow housing minister Tony Lloyd telling MPs he was “astounded” by the statement.

He said: “If this isn’t systemic, what assessment has been made of how many buildings are potentially affected by this, how many individual flats, how many people who have fire doors that simply don’t do the job?”

Those touched by the tragedy were alerted to the findings in a letter from the Metropolitan Police.

The door tested was designed to resist fire for 30 minutes but during the test it was only found to resist the fire for approximately 15 minutes, a much shorter period than expected Metropolitan Police statement

Scotland Yard said in a statement on Thursday morning: “We have previously described that our forensic examination at the scene would be followed by a phase of offsite testing to be conducted by experts on our behalf.

“As part of this investigation, experts tested a flat front door taken from  Grenfell Tower. The door tested was designed to resist fire for 30 minutes but during the test it was only found to resist the fire for approximately 15 minutes, a much shorter period than expected.

“The forensic examination and testing phase is ongoing and we are not able to comment on the potential impact or otherwise that any test result may have on the overall criminal investigation.”

A public inquiry into the fire is running alongside the police investigation, as well as a review into current building regulations by Dame Judith Hackitt, who has been made aware of the police findings.

It is feared that cladding installed on the tower could have also accelerated the spread of the blaze.

A spokesman for Kensington and Chelsea Council added: “We understand that tests organised by the Government have found that three fire doors from the same company provided less protection than guidelines recommend, but test results are as yet inconclusive.

“Alongside hundreds of councils and landlords across the country, we are seeking further information from the Government on what this means for our residents.”

Press Association


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