Cladding to blame for spread of Grenfell fire
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
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