The pictures and news reports concerning the tragic fire in Lakanal House in Camberwell show how lives can suddenly be lost when fire breaks out. The owners and regulators must establish swiftly what happened and what went wrong
The rapid spread of fire and the way it which it spread is surprising. It prompts questions about the quality of built-in or “passive” fire protection that is present in all buildings. Clearly, in Camberwell something went wrong.
Speculation about the cause and the details is premature and unhelpful at this stage. Lakanal House is a sixties block but we do have ample fire safety legislation that applies to existing buildings.
We are told there was an extensive recent refurbishment of Lakanal House and details of this will be part of the investigation, the results of which should be made public. This will show whether the measures taken were appropriate, of the correct quality and could be expected to work.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 passed the responsibility for fire safety to the owners and operators of buildings, who are personally and criminally liable. They have a duty of care to inform themselves of the requirements. Yet few people have even heard of passive fire protection and the guidance given to them on this is inadequate. Until this changes, we can only expect more tragedies.
David Sugden, chairman, Passive Fire Protection Federation