Posted: Thu 15th Jun 2017

Fire service working with Flintshire CC on safety of high-rises known to feature cladding

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jun 15th, 2017

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service say they are working closely with local authorities including Flintshire County Council over the safety of high-rise buildings known to feature cladding systems.

Cladding is used extensively to improve the thermal efficiency and appearance of buildings particularly high rise tower blocks, questions have been raised around the safety of cladding following the devastating blaze in a 24-storey London tower block on Wednesday.

Seventeen people are known to have died at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, police say the figure is expected to rise significantly, 30 people remain in hospital, 15 are in critical care.

The cause of the disaster is still unknown, the investigation will focus on how the fire started, why it spread so quickly and if recent renovation works affected the safety of the building and other factors such as means of escape and alarms.

Wrong to speculate on the cause

North Wales Senior Fire Safety Manager Stuart Millington said on Wednesday it would be wrong to speculate on the cause of this fire until a full investigation has been carried out.

“However, what we do know is that fires of this type are rare. High-rise buildings are designed to resist fire, stop the spread of smoke and provide a safe means of escape. Most fires don’t spread further than one or two rooms” he said.

Fire safety and construction experts fear external cladding on the tower block may be have contributed to the blaze spreading quickly over the building.

Conservative MP Mike Penning, a former firefighter and fire minister, told BBC News that he believed the cladding used on the exterior of the building was responsible for spreading the fire.

He said: ’The cladding was clearly spreading the fire …We need to find out what went on’.

Flintshire has three high-rise properties, Castle Heights, Bolingbroke Heights and Richard Heights in Flint.

In May 2015 the two 14 storey and one 17 storey concrete tower blocks underwent a 17-month renovation program costing £3m.

External cladding

Like hundreds of other high rise buildings across the UK the three Flint tower blocks have been fitted with an external cladding system, there is no suggestion at this stage cladding used on the tower blocks in Flint is same as that installed at Grenfell Tower.

In Wales, sprinklers are now compulsory for all newly-built houses and blocks of flats, as well as care homes, Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant signed the regulations into law in October 2013 when he was Housing Minister.

“Sprinklers are widely recognised as the single most effective method for fighting the spread of fires in their early stages – before they can cause severe damage or injury.” says Fire Safety Manager Stuart Millington.

The council moved quickly to reassure residents of Flint’s three high-rise blocks over concerns around safety, officers said they would visit all the tenants within the high-rise properties to provide information on safety measures in place.

Cllr Bernie Attridge, Cabinet Member for Housing said;

“Each of the three heights is subject to a regulatory fire risk assessment

Each of the Heights has been recently refurbished with a number of protective measures included in that refurbishment.”

These measures include:

  • The installation of sprinkler systems. Sprinklers are located throughout tenants’ properties and communal areas.. The installation of the sprinklers also included tenant meetings with partners from Flintshire’s Fire and Rescue Service to explain the reasons behind the installation of the sprinklers and key fire safety advice.
  • The installation of protective fire doors to all tenants’ properties.
  • The refurbishment of the three Heights also included the installation of external wall installation. In deciding the type of insulation for our properties, our background research included visits to the Fire and Rescue Services training centre in the Midlands to see demonstrations to help us determine the appropriate external wall insulation to fit in our properties.
  • Throughout all our high rise properties we have smoke detectors in tenants’ hallways as well as heat detectors in kitchens, and the detectors are monitored.
  • In communal areas (stairwells, scooter rooms, laundry and community centres), we have smoke detectors which are directly monitored by the Fire and Rescue Service. Smoke detectors are also in place in our maintenance areas (boiler and generator plant rooms, as well as bin stores).

Fire safety officers from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service will be in Flint next week to provide reassurance to residents and answer any concerns they may have.”

Stuart Millington from North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said:

We are working closely with all our local authority partners across North Wales in relation to the safety of any buildings known to feature cladding and ensuring that they are the safest they could possibly be.

In relation to the buildings in Flint in particular, a recent programme of refurbishment was carried out which included a number of protective measures, the most significant of which was the installation of a state of the art sprinkler system designed to quickly contain a fire in the event of one happening.

On Wednesday next week our fire safety staff will also be in attendance in the Flint area to provide reassurance to residents and will be on hand to answer any questions or concerns they may have.

The Fire Service has issued [icon name=”external-link” class=”” unprefixed_class=””] fire safety advice for high-rise residents

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