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Peter Cary/PA Wire
UK News

"We're here for the long haul": church minister near Grenfell says report is hugely important for victims

by Cara Bentley

The report by the Grenfell Tower inquiry states that the fire was started by an electrical fault in a fridge-freezer, through no fault of the owner.

The material in the building aided the fire to spread and for smoke on the outside of the building to re-enter the building and block the stairways, which were the only way to get out.

Rev Mike Long, the minister of Notting Hill Methodist Church, three minutes away from the tower, told Premier Christian Radio the recommendations are important to those who've lost family members: "I think they're vital. If ever there's going to be in a sense of healing and peace, there needs to be some kind of common understanding of truth and justice as well.

"For many people who are so closely connected, sadly, to this disaster, it's impossible to forget and there's this kind of aching, burning sense of frustration or longing to know what could have happened - the knowledge that, for instance, so many lives could have been saved, had key decisions been made differently on the night is very, very hard to bear for those who've lost loved ones."

Speaking about how it has affected the community two years on he explained: "I think it shapes all our ministries in the local community because the community continues to be so affected by it. That's not always of course on the surface but we know this is going to be a very long process.

"Also the presence of Grenfell tower so close to so many blocks where people live, to schools, to a number of churches...I think we need to be alongside the community in ways which just lets people know that we're here for the long haul and we will continue to be helping people find some sense of peace amid what continues to be, for many, not just a past event, but a very ongoing event."

The inquiry report also says that the London Fire Brigade were not trained to deal with fires in high-rise buildings, that there was poor communication between fire fighters on the ground and the control room and that the strategy of telling residents to 'stay put' for as long as they did endangered more lives.

It also reveals that there were no evacuation plans and recommends the manager of every high-rise building must be required by law to draw up evacuation plans and give them to the local fire service.

Rev Long said: "I'm pleased from the report's findings that it rightly identifies the heroism of firefighters and others who saved lives in Grenfell tower and put themselves at considerable risk and the local community and I am in awe of such people.

"I suspect to them it's a real mixture of, hopefully recognising their courage, and that there may be issues about the event which, had circumstances been different, perhaps more lives might have been saved and that I suspect is a very hard thing for such dedicated, professional firefighters to go through."

He called on Christians not to forget the area nor think that local people have moved on.

The report highlights how local people voiced concerns before the fire, saying: "From the outset members of the local community have said that they warned the TMO (Tenant Management Organisation) on many occasions about fire hazards, both those arising from the refurbishment and more generally. There is a strong feeling among them that their voices were ignored and that if attention had been paid to them the disaster could have been avoided."

It adds that authorities did not provide adequate support for the local community in the days after the disaster.

The main criticisms of the LFB were that they failed to put into practice new policies, such as to have regular contact between the teams on the ground and the control room and had not learnt lessons from the Lakanal House fire in Southwark in 2009.

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