The fire that engulfed the Cube in Bolton provides a stark reminder that the issues facing UK fire safety are the result of several problems, not just Grenfell-style ACM cladding, says the Fire Protection Association

The recent ban on combustible materials for buildings over 18 metres, introduced in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, should be revised says the Fire Protection Association (FPA).

As the Cube in Bolton was six storeys it was deemed to be outside of these rules.

The Fire Protection Association (FPA) said, “Clearly, we should not limit regulations to the mere height of a building.”

Although the final details surrounding the fire at the Cube in Bolton have not yet been released, FPA says there are a number of key issues reported which are relevant to the ongoing discussions around the current Building Regulations review:

  1. This was a modern building, designed and built using all of the latest rules, guides and expertise available. Yet, with two people injured, this must be classed as a near-miss event. The high-pressure laminate (HPL) and timber cladding components clearly played a large part in the fire’s progress, possibly in association with the insulation and cavity membranes present. Since Grenfell, HPL has been talked about to some degree, but no doubt thorough investigations and consideration have been hampered by it not being the focus of a major incident – until now.
  2. This was a risk in a building only six storeys high, where students sleep. Clearly, we should not limit regulations to the mere height of a building.
  3. Fire alarms are reported as being almost a daily event, so it is understandable that students did not assume Friday’s to be any different. Despite this, we know high integrity alarm systems exist which are tested for immunity for common ‘false challenges’. Despite countless calls for change over many years, they remain not legislated for.

Jonathan O’Neill, managing director of the Fire Protection Association, said:  “The fires at the Bolton student block, Worcester Park in London and the Beechmere care village in Cheshire, prove we cannot be housing people in buildings made from combustible materials.

“This issue needs to be addressed urgently; it simply cannot wait. We urge this issue to be a priority for the new government.”

The Fire Protection Association is calling for:

  • Supporting the combustibility ban for buildings based upon risk rather than height alone
  • To mandate high integrity alarm systems as a means of solving the false and unwanted alarms issue
  • A requirement for two means of escape from high rise buildings
  • For stay put policies to be used only after thorough intrusive inspection to the building to ensure it is capable of supporting it
  • Mandating sprinklers in high-risk environments such as schools and care homes.

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