King's Cross blaze and Grenfell tragedy 'game changers', says fire brigade

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The Grenfell Tower fire will boost safety standards as much as the King's Cross Tube station blaze which happened 30 years ago on Saturday, London Fire Brigade (LFB) said.

Thirty-one people died when an escalator fire, thought to have been caused by a dropped match, ripped through part of the London Underground station on November 18 1987.

Firemen attend the scene of the fire-damaged King's Cross Underground Station
Firemen attend the scene of the fire-damaged King's Cross Underground Station (London Fire Brigade/PA)

The devastation and a subsequent public inquiry led to stricter fire safety regulations.

Speaking ahead of the 30th anniversary of the blaze, LFB's director of operations Tom George said: "The King's Cross fire was a game changer for London Fire Brigade and the UK fire service just as the Grenfell tragedy will be 30 years later.

We want urgent action to improve building fire safety at every level to help prevent tragic fires like Grenfell https://t.co/yRBau8yUwHpic.twitter.com/t2hNejgj6C

-- London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) November 16, 2017

"Significant changes across the sector were made following the fire and I'm sure the same will happen once the investigations have taken place post-Grenfell.

"Following the King's Cross inquiry, firefighters' uniforms, Underground fire safety procedures and joint working between blue light partners were all improved, and have helped save public and firefighters' lives in the aftermath of the tragedy."

Police believe 70 people were killed in the Grenfell Tower blaze in west London five months ago.

Smoking was immediately banned on all parts of the Tube after the King's Cross disaster and wooden escalators were replaced.

The fire-damaged King's Cross Underground Station
The fire-damaged King's Cross Underground Station (Tony de Salvo/PA)

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: "The King's Cross fire stands alongside the appalling disaster at Grenfell Tower as a reminder to everyone that safety and regulation must remain our watchwords regardless of what the bottom line says on a set of accounts."

Mr George was in training at the time of the blaze and was selected to attend the funeral of fireman Colin Townsley, who was among the dead.

Mr Townsley was in charge of the first fire engine to arrive at the scene shortly after 7.30pm and was in the Tube station when the fireball erupted, engulfing the ticket office with smoke.

The coffin of fireman Colin Townsley is carried into St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London
The coffin of fireman Colin Townsley is carried into St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, London (PA)

He was posthumously awarded a certificate of commendation for his bravery.

Recalling the scene later, rail passenger Peter Gidley said he was on the mainline station concourse and saw "thick black smoke belching from all the Underground exits".

He added: "If hell exists, it was on display that night."

Mr George, who will attend a memorial service at the station to mark the anniversary on Saturday, said: "Our thoughts are with all the victims and their friends and family."