Less than a year before the 14 June 2017 blaze that killed at least 12 people inside the Grenfell Tower in London, fire safety policies at the high-rise apartment building had reportedly been placed under review.
A group reputedly comprised of area residents had been criticizing KCTMO’s management since 2013, publishing various blog posts saying that the building would suffer a disaster if the company did not take action. In its latest post, published after the blaze, the Grenfell Action Group offered condolences to the deceased and their loved ones but added:
ALL OUR WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS and we predicted that a catastrophe like this was inevitable and just a matter of time.
Records show the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) agreed to consider a number of safety improvements after its 24 November 2016 meeting, including “further work to address the issue of storage and charging of mobility scooters within communal areas,” as well as adopting “a more coordinated approach with the various agencies involved with hoarders” and installing Fire Action signs “in the communal entrance
lobbies of all blocks.”
However, even as the management group expressed support for improvements in November 2016, the Grenfell Action Group published a blog post calling Black’s company an “evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia” exposing residents to “dangerous living conditions.” The post stated:
It is our conviction that a serious fire in a tower block or similar high density residential property is the most likely reason that those who wield power at the KCTMO will be found out and brought to justice! The Grenfell Action Group believe that the KCTMO narrowly averted a major fire disaster at Grenfell Tower in 2013 when residents experienced a period of terrifying power surges that were subsequently found to have been caused by faulty wiring. We believe that our attempts to highlight the seriousness of this event were covered up by the KCTMO with the help of the RBKC Scrutiny Committee who refused to investigate the legitimate concerns of tenants and leaseholders.
As of press time, 12 people were confirmed dead because of the fire and another 75 injured. No cause has been identified. KCTMO is the largest firm of its kind in Britain, and manages 10,000 properties. Chief executive Robert Black told ITV News after the fire:
We had no expectation this would happen, we are absolutely devastated by it. And we are trying to work out – now at this stage I can listen to what people say but I don’t have any information and therefore it’s really difficult for me to comment.
We will be working with the fire brigade and the police and as you can imagine their ongoing investigation isn’t even finished yet.
Another KCTMO London property, Adair Tower, suffered a fire in October 2015, rendering 12 apartments “uninhabitable” and requiring the rescue of 50 residents. Fire officials issued the company a “deficiency notice” after auditing a third building, Lonsdale House.
The Grenfell Action Group began posting about what it called “fire safety scandals” at the tower in January 2013, raising concerns over a lack of access from emergency vehicles. Later that year it posted about power surges at Grenfell Towers and accused management of circulating “propaganda” in an effort to downplay the issue.