World
20.7.17

Kensington United – the Fire That Brought a Community Together

The source of this photo is by https://flickr.com/photos/69057297@N04/35353492476. The author is ChiralJon. From Wikimedia Commons.

80 people. That is believed to be the number of casualties of the fire at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, London.

Emergency services were called to a fire at Grenfell Tower in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea just before 1 am on June 14  2017. The fire was believed to have originated on the fourth floor. The media and London population have directed their frustration towards the council and the company which provided the building with the cladding that caught fire. In the days and weeks following a tragedy like Grenfell Tower, people always look for answers. How did it happen? Why did it happen? And perhaps most pressingly, who is to blame?

The cause of the fire has been established: it was sparked by a Hotpoint FF175BP fridge freezer. There has never previously been a problem with this specific model, but there have been with other Hotpoint products, in one case leading to an inferno at an 18-storey tower block in Shepherd’s Bush, west London, in 2016. In a world inhabited by faulty humans, though, it is not fair to assign blame. In terrible situations we insist on placing culpability, but will it bring redemption? I doubt it. Naturally, the responsibility for safe living lies with the council. Checks are currently being carried out nationwide to ensure that all fire hazards related to this cladding risk are being dealt with. The question however remains: did Arconic – the company which supplied the combustible cladding – knowingly distribute highly flammable building materials? One might ask how no one said, “Hold on a minute. Look at these risks.” Obviously, no one did. Or at least no one of importance listened. Arconic has pointed out that it delivers materials that are ordered and does not control local building regulations. In all, there were actions taken by different partners in order to carry out construction. No one realised the dangers, and by default, therefore, they are all responsible to a certain degree.

Paranoia can be an outcome of tragedy. Parts of the population in north Kensington are blaming the financially wealthy inhabitants of the borough, claiming that they want to push out people of lesser means. The media loves this conspiracy-like agenda and is subsequently providing insights into the demographics of the Kensington area. The gap between rich and poor exists, but to align this wealth gap with Grenfell Tower is quite undignified. Of course, no authority would knowingly use highly flammable materials to build homes for the less wealthy in order to see them burn down.

Londoners and people around the world empathise with the immense and unbearable losses those affected by the fire have experienced. Their lives will never be the same again. However, with that being said, what happened at Kensington Town Hall is a disgrace. Responding to losses and tragedy with violence and intolerance is abhorrent. The aggressive behaviour and small damage done at Kensington Town Hall is in every way the wrong way to solve future fire safety issues. Destroying council property will neither consolidate any losses nor silence the void in the victims’ hearts.

A detailed report outlining all the deficiencies will be conducted and actions are expected to be taken based on this. Nonetheless, fire cannot be fought with fire – it must be handled with logic. In some cases, residents of Grenfell Tower are still having rent taken from their bank accounts. This is totally unacceptable and shows that Kensington and Chelsea Council has not managed to deal with this tragedy in an effective way. The victims should, of course, be the council’s main priority. These are human beings who have feelings and rights regardless of their background and class. It has been very traumatic for them, and we as a nation should do everything in our power to assist the victims as much as possible.

At times, we forget to mention that 65 people were rescued by London firefighters. The men and women who bravely risked everything to save these innocent people deserve all the praise possible. The amount of support shown to the victims of Grenfell Tower has been outstanding. I live very close to Kensington Town Hall, and the area has worked closely together to raise awareness and help the victims. Everywhere I go in the neighbourhood, there have been banners and posters encouraging people to donate to the cause. The support has been so great that charities have had to turn down offers of donations because they have reached full storage capacity. It is an extraordinary thing when people with very little in common get together to support a charitable cause. A community has indeed been created from this tragedy – a strong community which will help everybody affected by the horrific incident. As we see so often, in times of crisis, London comes together.

Global Seven News

Ricki Lyngsoe