Hazardous Materials

Official inquiry says renovation responsible for deadly Grenfell fire

An official inquiry has found that the cladding added during a renovation to Grenfell Tower fueled the blaze that killed 72 residents. (Catholic Church England and Wales via Flickr)

An 856-page document of a government-led inquiry into London’s Grenfell Tower fire states that the materials used on the building, including those from a 2016 renovation by Studio E Architects, failed to meet regulations and accelerated the fire which killed 72 people in June 2017.

The news follows a 2018 report by fire specialists BRE Global which claimed that the fire wouldn’t have spread so readily in the 43-year-old concrete tower block before it was renovated. The latest report released last Wednesday stated that the aluminum composite cladding added in 2016 was the “principal reason” for the blaze rapidly consuming the building, going on to say that it acted as a “source of fuel” and was further assisted by flammable insulation and materials around windows.

In addition, Architect’s Journal reported that “the ‘decorative’ architectural crown of the tower also played a ‘significant role in enabling the fire to spread around the building.’” The cladding was made by the U.S. company Arconic and the fire is believed to have been sparked by a faulty Whirlpool refrigerator.

A tower on fire with firetrucks spraying at it.

Originally designed by Clifford Wearden and Associates, it’s believed that future updates to the tower caused the fatal fire. (Natalie Oxford/Wikimedia Commons)

The inquiry’s report also criticizes the “gravely inadequate” response by the fire brigade. However, Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, disputed this characterization to the BBC: “The truth is that the fire spread the way it did because it was wrapped in flammable cladding,” he said. “The firefighters turned up after that had happened, after the building had already been turned, in reality, into a death trap.”

Wrack went on to explain that while “nobody is trying to avoid scrutiny…we think that the ordering of the inquiry is completely back to front.” 

Following last week’s report, lawyers suspect the chances of criminal charges being brought in relation to the fire have increased significantly, according to The GuardianThe second phase of the inquiry will investigate how the inadequate design and construction, which was in violation of existing regulations, was allowed to have happened. Former judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick who led the inquiry stated that he will also look into “what was and should have been known” about the particular dangers posed by thermoplastic polymers within the construction industry and those responsible for setting fire safety standards in the central government.

Following this initial report, Moore-Bick has issued a series of proposals to shore up fire safety for towers in the U.K. 

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