Investigation into Barking blaze that destroys 20 flats

Materials World magazine
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10 Jun 2019

An investigation has been launched into the fire that broke out in East London, UK, yesterday after a block flats went up in flames in minutes. Residents living in the Barking Riverside Estate said they been complaining for years about the wood cladding and its potential fire risks. 

Families living in the flats also said the fire alarm and sprinklers in the six-storey block had not been working prior to the blaze. A total of 20 flats were destroyed, and ten were damaged by heat and smoke. The cause of the fire is still unclear, but police were told one resident on a lower floor balcony was seen lighting a barbeque shortly before the fire began.

Barking Reach Residents’ Association Chairman, Pete Mason, said he had been assured by Bellway Homes, the developer that built the block, that the external wood had been treated so it would not catch fire for 30 minutes after a blaze started. However, according to Mason, videos showed the fire spread up the block in only 70 seconds. 

Raising the matter of cladding safety since 2017, Mason claimed to have revisited the issue with a director of the company that owns the estate last Thursday. ‘There is a tremendous amount of wood used on the buildings but I don’t think they took my concerns seriously,’ he said. 

Since the fire at Grenfell Tower, which killed 72 people on 14 June 2017, there has been increasing pressure to replace all aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding in buildings. The government, however, has been heavily criticised after figures released in April 2019 showed the slow progress made in remediating cladding across England. 

According to the report, 164 privately owned high-rise buildings have still not had ACM cladding removed, and 70 have no firm plan in place to address the issue. The government agreed to pay £600mln to remove Grenfell-type cladding on private residential and social housing tower blocks, but it is not funding work on buildings with other types of flammable cladding.

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