Cladding to blame for spread of Gren­fell fire

The Dominion Post - - World -

BRITAIN: The Gren­fell Tower fire spread be­cause ‘‘com­bustible’’ cladding was in­stalled on the 24-storey tower block, a re­port for the crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the blaze has con­cluded.

The fire, which started in a fridge-freezer and killed 72 peo­ple, would not have spread to other flats without a £10 mil­lion (NZ$19.4m) cladding scheme to make the block look more at­trac­tive. Gaps around win­dows and dozens of miss­ing or faulty door closers on the 120 flats were also to blame for fail­ing to limit the fire’s spread in June last year.

A draft of the tech­ni­cal re­port by BRE Global, which is­sues fire safety cer­tifi­cates for build­ing ma­te­ri­als, high­lighted prob­lems with the London tower block.

Scot­land Yard, which com­mis­sioned the re­port, said in De­cem­ber it was con­sid­er­ing crim­i­nal of­fences of man­slaugh­ter, cor­po­rate man­slaugh­ter, mis­con­duct in pub­lic office and breaches of fire safety leg­is­la­tion.

The re­port recorded what it called de­fi­cien­cies in the cladding, fin­ished in 2016 for the Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea Ten­ant Man­age­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion, the so­cial hous­ing arm of the Royal Bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea.

The ‘‘cav­ity bar­ri­ers’’ be­tween the orig­i­nal con­crete ex­te­rior and the cladding were too small, and cre­ated a chim­ney ef­fect that caused flames to spread from the fridge-freezer, the re­port said.

The alu­minium com­pos­ite ma­te­rial in the fa­cade had a poly­eth­yl­ene core that ‘‘ap­pears to be highly com­bustible’’.

The new win­dow frames were 150mm nar­rower than the con­crete struc­ture, and the gap was filled with a rub­berised mem­brane, foam in­su­la­tion and uPVC pan­els, none of which would pro­vide 30 minutes of fire re­sis­tance. The gap be­came a ‘‘di­rect route for fire spread around the win­dow frame into the cav­ity of the fa­cade . . . and from the fa­cade into the flats’’.

The re­port con­cluded: ‘‘The orig­i­nal fa­cade of Gren­fell Tower com­pris­ing ex­posed con­crete and, given its age, likely tim­ber or metal frame win­dows, would not have pro­vided a medium for fire to spread up the ex­ter­nal sur­face. In BRE’s opin­ion . . . there would have been lit­tle op­por­tu­nity for a fire in a flat in Gren­fell Tower to spread to any neigh­bour­ing flats.’’

Fire­fight­ing fa­cil­i­ties were de­scribed as ‘‘de­fi­cient’’, with room for just a sin­gle fire en­gine at the base of the tower.

Gren­fell United, a group of survivors and rel­a­tives of those killed, said: ‘‘It was clear to us the re­fur­bish­ment was shoddy and sec­ond-rate. We raised con­cerns time and time again. We were not just ig­nored but bul­lied to keep quiet.

‘‘That a re­fur­bish­ment could make our homes dan­ger­ous and un­safe shows that the con­trac­tors put profit be­fore lives. It’s an in­dus­try that is bro­ken. It’s also an in­dus­try that has been al­lowed to get away with this be­hav­iour.’’

– The Times


‘‘There are priests who carry out ex­or­cisms on their mo­bile phones. That’s pos­si­ble thanks to Je­sus,’’ says Car­di­nal Ernest Troshani Si­moni.

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