Bolton block ‘16cm too short’ for combustible ban
THE CUBE block in Bolton, which caught fire in November, was measured as 17.84m tall – meaning it was ‘just 16cm’ under the height that would have seen its combustible cladding legally banned.
The Cube building in Bolton caught fire on Friday 15 November, with the six storey building seeing fire spread ‘extremely rapidly’. Two people were injured in the fire, which began on the fourth floor, saw the top floor ‘gutted’ and the fourth and fifth floors ‘visibly damaged’, with 200 GMFRS firefighters and 40 appliances required to fight it ‘at its height’.
Over 100 students were evacuated, with eyewitnesses stating that the fire was ‘crawl[ing] up the cladding like it was nothing’, had ‘quickly exposed’ the building’s frame, and had been ‘climbing up and to the right’ due to wind, flames ‘bubbling from the outside and then being engulfed from the outside’. It was also described as having grown ‘like crazy’ and spreading ‘so rapidly’, while reports claimed that fire alarms in some flats ‘were not loud enough’.
Students stated that alarms ‘go off almost every day’ in the building, which led to confusion ‘over whether it was a drill or a false alarm’. GMFRS had requested a fire safety assessment in 2018, including a cladding assessment, with ‘unspecified’ works undertaken – according to council records, it was reclad with HPL in 2018.
Manchester Tab has now reported that the building was 16cm shorter than the 18m outlined in the government’s combustible materials ban, meaning that it was just under the height that would have meant the cladding would need to be removed. The news outlet said that this was the reason it ‘did not have fire-resistant cladding’, with the building’s measurement coming after investigations into the cladding.
While made out of HPL, the site noted, the building’s cladding was ‘combustible’, with HPL only needing to be removed from high rises 18m and taller alongside aluminium composite material cladding. In response, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) criticised the rule, adding that the height restriction should be lowered to 11m ‘so that cherry pickers used by firefighters today can reach them’.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack stated that the current height restriction is based on wheeled escape ladders that ‘have not been in widespread use since the late 1980s’, and added: ‘There is no sensible reason why we should only care about the safety of those in buildings over 18m, nor why we should only try to remove one particular kind of flammable cladding.
‘This Tory Government have sat on their hands on fire safety for too long. They’ve done the minimum. This Government has not grasped and does not want to grasp the scale of the fire safety crisis in the UK it’s sickening.’