Doncaster firefighters take part in high-rise building exercise in wake of devastating Grenfell Tower disaster

Firefighters have taken part in a training exercise at one of Doncaster’s biggest high-rise buildings in response to legislation changes following the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London.

By George Torr, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 8th April 2022, 6:50 pm

Working alongside staff from St Leger Homes, the training exercise took place at Shaftesbury House in Intake where it gave crews from Doncaster the opportunity to practice new procedures in responding to fires in high-rise buildings.

Changes in procedure have been brought in following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

A total of 71 people died in the Kensington apartment block which spread rapidly due to flammable cladding put on the building under a recent refurbishment.

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Cllr Glyn Jones (Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing and Business); Chris Margrave (Director of Property Services at St Leger Homes); Dave Wilkinson (Chair of the St Leger Homes Board); and Cath Toovey (South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Area Manager); with firefighters from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

But a public enquiry decried a number of institutional failings among fire brigade chiefs, saying preparations and training for an event such as the Grenfell fire were ‘gravely inadequate’ and that ‘serious mistakes’ were made on the night.

The Intake exercise also aims to help firefighters to further familiarise themselves with the layouts of the building, and the different risks and challenges that are presented by tackling incidents in high-rise buildings.

This is one of a series of high-rise training exercises that South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue will be carrying out in buildings across the region including in Doncaster, Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield.

The buildings have been chosen because of their suitability for the training and not because they are at any greater risk of fire, St Leger Homes bosses said.

A number of sprinkler systems were installed in all high-rise blocks following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Cath Toovey, SYF&R area manager, said: “Whilst classroom and online training can be effective at explaining theoretical changes to our firefighters and incident commanders, there’s really no replacement for carrying out live, practical exercises like these.

“We’re particularly grateful to the residents in the buildings for their patience as we plan and deliver these exercises, and to the colleges, local authorities and housing associations for working with us to make the training as realistic and effective as possible.”

Chris Margrave, director of property services at St Leger Homes, said: “We want to make sure we do everything we can to keep our tenants safe and welcome that the fire service are doing this work, helping ensure that we have robust plans in place to keep tenants safe should a real fire ever happen.”

Coun Glyn Jones, deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said: “This fire training exercise is another important measure which gives people further reassurance that the council, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and St Leger Homes are all fully focussed on continuing to improve residents’ safety.”