Huge blaze that engulfed flats ‘not made worse by cladding’
- Credit: Alex Rudiger
Cladding on a block of flats engulfed by fire is not believed to have contributed to the ferocity of the blaze, fire investigators have revealed.
Tenants whose flats were gutted by the fire have now been rehomed, with footage from the scene, in Yeoman Close, Ipswich, showing flames and thick black smoke billowing from the block’s roof.
Dozens of firefighters battled the blaze, with 28 engines attending in total from across Suffolk and north Essex last Monday.
Now fire officials have revealed that their investigation, carried out over several days, reflects initial conclusions that the cladding did not have an effect on the fire’s growth.
In emails seen by this newspaper, officials say the cladding system and external wall materials consisted of sheet aluminum rather than forming part of a composite.
“Therefore, there is no combustible core to burn,” experts wrote.
The system in place on Grenfell Tower included a type of aluminum composite material (ACM).
There were timber balconies in place on the Yeoman Close block. However, these were not involved in the blaze.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service is now understood to be auditing the building involved in last week’s fire, originally developed by Persimmon and run by Newtide Homes (formerly Flagship), with officers expected to visit on Thursday.
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The other three blocks on the site, managed by a separate firm, are set to be audited by the service in the coming weeks.
Previously, SFRS said a programme of fire safety audits, site inspections and data gathering was in progress for high-rise residential buildings in Ipswich.
Alex Dickin, of fire safety campaign group Ipswich Cladiators, said: "Although this building has no fire safety defects, the fire demonstrates the need for all mid-rise buildings (11m-18m) to be surveyed.
"This should be in addition to all the high-rise blocks (18m+) currently being checked across the country."
Sam Greenacre, managing director at Newtide Homes, said all tenants were offered alternative accommodation after the fourth-floor fire - and they are now in the process of assessing the damage.
“We understand this is a really difficult time for our tenants. We’ve been in regular contact with them to ensure they know what is happening and have the support they need,” he added.
He said their initial findings suggest the fire-detecting equipment at Yeoman Close was fully functional and activated as it should have been in response to the incident.
Mr Greenacre added: “Our priority is the safety of our tenants and we will continue to work with them to ensure they return home as soon as possible.”
Alongside fire crews, the East of England Ambulance Service also sent paramedics to the scene and an East Anglian Air Ambulance crew.
There were no reports of serious injuries.