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Small chance of Grenfell fire spreading without combustible material says study

Some 71 people died in the west London tower block fire on June 14 last year. Picture by Natalie Oxford, Press Association
Jemma Crew, Press Association

The Grenfell Tower fire would have had "little opportunity" to spread from the flat it started in if the exterior of the tower had not been renovated with combustible material, a leaked report has said.

According to the report, seen by the Evening Standard, the 2014-2016 refurbishment of the building failed to meet fire safety standards and "deficiencies" in the new facade helped the fire to spread up the building's exterior.

The fire, which started in a fridge-freezer in a fourth floor flat, travelled through a nearby open window before spreading via the external cladding, according to the newspaper.

The fire damage was so severe that, had the building been build to the less stringent requirements of current building regulations, "it is likely the tower would have collapsed", the report allegedly said.

Some 71 people died in the west London tower block fire on June 14 last year.

The report, by fire investigation experts BRE Global, was quoted in the Evening Standard as saying: "Grenfell Tower, as originally built, appears to have been designed on the premise of providing very high levels of passive fire protection.

"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 spread up the external surface.

"In BRE's opinion ... there would have been little opportunity for a fire in a flat of Grenfell Tower to spread to any neighbouring flats."

Dated January 31, the report was prepared as part of the police investigation into the June 14 fire.

It also identified flaws with the cavity barriers, window frames, "door closers" and flammable insulation and cladding, the paper said.

Cavity barriers were installed back to front or upside down and were "insufficient" to bridge the gap between the surface of the building and the cladding, creating a chimney-like effect that aided the spread of flames.

Window frames were narrower than the gap they were placed in, meaning fire could spread around the frame, on to the building's facade and back into other flats.

There was also a lack of "door closers", meaning that when residents fled, their flat doors stayed open, allowing the fire to spread into the lobby.

The absence of a sprinkler system and the narrow single internal stairwell also breached building regulations.

The report noted that the waste chute rooms, located on every floor, were "largely undamaged" as fire doors protected them from the blaze, the paper said.

But it could not say whether someone who had taken refuge in them would have survived.

The report also said there were issues of access, with room for only one fire engine at the base of the tower due to surrounding landscaping.

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