Grenfell Tower: Fatal fire at Stevenage’s Harrow Court foretold the tragedy
PUBLISHED: 14:22 30 October 2018
A fatal tower block fire in Stevenage which claimed the lives of three people foretold last year’s Grenfell Tower inferno which led to 72 deaths, but warnings were ignored.
This is asserted in BBC2 documentary The Fires That Foretold Grenfell, which is being shown at 9pm tonight and is the haunting story of five fires that show the clear warnings that existed and could have predicted a Grenfell-type inferno happening in Britain.
The fire on the 14th floor of Harrow Court in Stevenage’s Silam Road in the early hours of February 2, 2005, claimed the lives of resident Natalie Close, 32, and the two firefighters who tried to rescue her – 28-year-old Jeff Wornham and 26-year-old Michael Miller.
The fire was started in the bedroom of flat 85 after a tea light was left burning while Natalie and her boyfriend Nicholas Savage slept, and it melted into a television.
Nicholas had woken up and left the room to get a towel to smother the flames, but when he returned the fire had accelerated to such an extent he could not go in.
In a desperate attempt to escape the heat, he hung out of the living room window before being rescued by Jeff and Michael.
It is thought a fire phenomenon – such as a backdraught or flashover – happened after Jeff and Michael had gone back into the flat to rescue Natalie, who is believed to have never properly woken up.
Residents on the same floor were told to stay in their flats.
After a two-year investigation, the Fire Brigades’ Union made 73 recommendations, including calling for a review of the ‘stay put’ policy in tower blocks and for sprinklers to be fitted in all high-rises. The coroner sent the findings to central government, but nothing was done.
In September this year, Stevenage Borough Council vowed to install sprinkler systems in each of its seven high-rises, even though not legally required.
Made over the course of 12 months, and available now on BBC iPlayer, The Fires That Foretold Grenfell explores the causes of five fires, the subsequent investigations and the recommendations that were sent to successive UK governments, ultimately posing the question – if lessons had been learned as a result of tragic repetition of errors over the decades, could the Grenfell tragedy have been avoided?