An inquiry into London’s Grenfell Tower blaze, which killed 72 people, has learned the main building contractor “came to the conclusion” that there was “no need” to hire a fire consultant, despite repeatedly saying that it would.

The devastating fire tore through the tower block in North Kensington on June 14, 2017, after igniting from a faulty fridge on the fourth floor. The flames spread quickly as a result of recently added external cladding and burned for 60 hours as firefighters drawn from across the city fought to extinguish it and rescue those trapped inside.  

Rydon was the main contractor hired for the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, completed in 2016. Contracts manager Simon Lawrence told the inquiry, which is currently in its second phase, on Monday that it had considered hiring a specialist to consult on its plans for the lower four floors, but “as the design progressed, we ultimately came to the conclusion we didn’t need” one, ITV reports. 

The firm didn’t tell the client or architect that it wasn’t hiring a fire expert, even though it said it would do so in five different meetings in 2014, The Guardian reports. A cheap aluminum composite cladding was added to the exterior as part of the building’s revamp. “The cladding, in our view, at the time was less of a risk than the lower four floors because of the means of escape,” Lawrence said. 

The manager added that not hiring fire safety consultants was standard practice for the company, and had been the case for previous jobs that involved overcladding. He said in his written statement that he didn’t “have any reason to believe” the materials used didn’t meet legal requirements. The inquiry earlier heard that Rydon was “reliant on others” to check fire safety compliance.  

A public inquiry into the Grenfell fire began in 2017 and its first-phase report, published last year, confirmed that the building’s exterior was the main reason the fire spread, as the materials used didn’t comply with regulations. The second phase of the probe began in June and is examining the broader causes of the fire. 

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