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Lakanal House: new evidence reveals how fatal fire spread


I am particularly interested in this so sad story because it may be yet another case of problems caused by safety processes demanding counter-intuitive behaviour from occupants, which in a crisis no one would obey. I covered a not dissimilar fire for the AJ 35 years ago when those killed were cornered in their (balconied) bedroom, having allowed the fire to come between them - who had instinctively moved to the building's edge - and the escape stair - instinctively felt as a dark, enclosed, unsafe place. Here, it seems people also died in a bedroom. Yet, if the flats today remain as in the AJ 1960 plans you published, there is nowhere less safe as a shelter than a bedroom. Even if fire officers are misquoted by your survivor as having told the victims to go back into the bedroom, to go back into their apartment was probably very good advice. But only if they went down and out onto the communal balcony, and along as far as possible from the fire, on the side where no fire was penetrating the envelope; instead they went for safety into the nearest room to the apartment entrance, the bedroom... Could this be what happened? Fire in the two lower flats seem, as your photos and Sam Webb suggest, lit by windblown debris from above; but how did it move upwards, from a bedroom next to a services duct and the liftshafts, two storeys to the next bedroom so speedily and disasterously? I hope attempts find useful answers drown out recriminations and inflamation of other occupants' understandable fears.

Posted date

8 July, 2009

Posted time

6:23 pm