Grenfell Tower: how did fire start, is housing block still standing, will it be rebuilt - what is happening?

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Seventy-two people died in the Grenfell Tower disaster

Grenfell Tower was destroyed by a fire in 2017 and was one of the UK’s worst modern disasters. Seventy-two people died in the incident.

But how did the fire start and is the housing block still standing?

The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)
The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images) | Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Here’s what you need to know.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What happened to Grenfell Tower?

Grenfell Tower in Kensington was part of the Lancaster West Estate, a social housing complex of almost 1,000 homes.

It was built in the 1970s, but had been recently renovated.

Just before 1am on 14 June in 2017, a fire broke out in the kitchen of a fourth floor flat at the 23 storey tower block in North Kensington, West London.

The fire had raced up the exterior of the building within just minutes, before spreading to all four sides. By 3am, most of the upper floors were on fire.

How did the fire start?

According to a provisional report by Dr Niamh Nic Daéid, director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science at Dundee University.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Occupant of the flat, Behailu Kebede, described being woken by the sound of a smoke alarm. He went into the kitchen and saw smoke in the area of the fridge-freezer and near the kitchen window, and immediately called the fire brigade.

The fire spread quickly upwards from the fourth floor and across the eastern side of the building.

How the Grenfell fire spread (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)How the Grenfell fire spread (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)
How the Grenfell fire spread (NationalWorld / Mark Hall) | NationalWorld / Mark Hall

It then spread across the north face of the tower.

In a report to the Grenfell Public Inquiry, fire safety engineer Dr Barbara Lane identified the fire spreading vertically up the tower columns and said it went "laterally along the cladding above and below the window lines (and) the panels between windows”.

Grenfell Tower had undergone a renovation where the addition of external cladding was made, consisting of aluminium sheets bonded to a central plastic (polyethylene) core.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Panels made from plastic and aluminium were installed on the sides of Grenfell Tower to make it warmer and drier.

What kind of building was Grenfell (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)What kind of building was Grenfell (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)
What kind of building was Grenfell (NationalWorld / Mark Hall) | NationalWorld / Mark Hall

Professor Luke Bisby, in his report to the public inquiry, said evidence "strongly supports" the theory that the polyethylene material in the cladding was the primary cause of the fire’s rapid spread.

The cladding has been blamed for helping flames to spread when fire broke, with hundreds of thousands of people currently living in buildings with similar cladding, which must now be removed at enormous cost, resulting in a crisis in building safety.

Is the housing block still standing and will it be rebuilt?

Grenfell Tower is set to be demolished over safety concerns, but as of yet its burned-out shell is still standing and is wrapped in protective plastic sheeting.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (NationalWorld / Mark Hall)
The fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will take place on 14 June 2022 (NationalWorld / Mark Hall) | NationalWorld / Mark Hall

How to commemorate the site has not yet been decided and a criminal investigation by London’s Metropolitan Police is still going on, as is an independent public inquiry.

There will be a general debate on the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in the House of Commons chamber on 16 June 2022.

The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.