London firefighters need more ‘realistic’ training for high-rise fires

Six years after the Grenfell Tragedy, the Fire Brigades Union has warned firefighters are still not training in “real” towers

By Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

(Credit: London Fire Brigade)

London’s firefighters are still not being properly training to tackle fires in tower blocks, the Fire Brigades Union has warned.

At a meeting of the London Assembly’s fire, resilience and emergency planning committee yesterday, the union’s London region chair Gareth Beeton issued a warning about the lack of “real” training six years after the Grenfell Tragedy.

The London Fire Brigade currently has three training sites in London at Harrow, Beckton and Park Royal. While the latter two have real gas-fire burners to simulate an emergency, Gareth warned there is no “high-rise, real fire training”.

Instead, budding firefighters practice for tower fires in unoccupied blocks in the city, such as Fiske Court in Barking. However, this building is only nine storeys high, while Grenfell Tower was 24 storeys.

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Gareth told the City Hall meeting: “The LFB are using some high-rise buildings that are unoccupied, but we don’t have, in London, real fire high-rise training. We still don’t, six years after Grenfell.

“It’s a totally different firefighting model. You’ve got a street of houses up in the sky, 600 people living there. That [sort of training] is what we need.”

Responding, deputy commissioner Jonathan Smith conceded that a more “realistic training environment” is needed and said the brigade was in talks with its training provider, Babcock, about improvements in that area.

He said: “We’re all in absolute agreement that we want to offer the most realistic training environment for our staff, knowing what we know about the risk environment that our crews are exposed to on a day-to-day basis.”

He added that the LFB has also “opened up conversation” with brigades covering counties outside of London, whose training facilities “have got, simply because of space, less restrictions in terms of height”, to see if they can be used by London trainees.

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