The June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in London was an awful tragedy. Investigators are still exploring what happened, but the early official reports are that plastics did play a role in the rapid spread of the flames.
So this disaster, which has claimed at least 79 lives, was preventable. In a sense, that's true of most major fires. Experts know how to prevent fires from happening, how to slow their spread and how to minimize damage and loss of life.
But this case, with its apparent combination of the wrong construction material and a building design without enough sprinklers or fire escapes, was a disaster because too many people made decisions that did not put safety first.
When I first learned about the fire and saw reports about burning foam, it reminded me of the 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., which killed 100 people. You may remember, it's the fire that happened when the band Great White used pyrotechnics in a show that ignited foam that had been installed in the walls and ceiling as sound insulation.
In that case, court testimony later revealed that the nightclub installed inexpensive foam instead of a fire-resistant version that would have cost twice as much. Could that be the problem at Grenfell Tower, too?