02/10/2018 17:51 BST

Fire Training Exercise At Grenfell Tower Was Cancelled Just Days Before Deadly Blaze

An exercise at HMP Wormwood Scrubs was held instead, the inquiry into the fire has heard.

PA Archive/PA Images
Smoke billowing from the fire which engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower 

A training exercise for the London Fire Brigade was due to take place at Grenfell Tower just days before the deadly fire but was cancelled, an inquiry heard.

It was called after Dean Ricketts, a watch manager at North Kensington fire station, suggested the “complexities of the basement” in the high-rise would be a suitable venue for a training exercise. It was planned for June 8, less than a week before the deadly fire.

However, the drill was shelved when it emerged it clashed with another exercise due to take place at Wormwood Scrubs prison.

Asked why the prison exercise took precedence over the high-rise operation, Ricketts told the inquiry on Tuesday: “You will have to ask the station manager who cancelled the exercise.”

The aborted training exercise was prompted by an earlier “familiarisation visit” carried out on March 27 by Ricketts and a North Kensington fire crew.

The aim of the visit was to gather and check basic information, and record it on the brigade’s operational risk data base (ORD) in order for a tactical plan to be drawn up.

A large number of residents leaving and entering the building at the time of the visit meant the crew were unable to test the controls of the fireman’s lifts within the building, he said.

Ricketts was unable to locate a premises information box, which would contain information useful to the brigade in an emergency including plans to the floors, evacuation strategies and procedures, and instructions on the use of mechanical ventilation systems.

As a result of the visit, Ricketts noted on the ORD the absence of the premises information box within the lobby, and concerns about restricted access to emergency vehicles in the immediate area around the tower.

During the visit, Ricketts reported having “absolutely no communication problems” but admitted he did not venture up the tower to test the radios.

He told the inquiry he had been focusing on the basement because it did not seem to have been picked up on previous visits.

A public inquiry into the devastating blaze which killed 72 people last year is currently being held in London. It has been hearing witness testimony from firefighters as it seeks to establish the emergency response to the fire.