A 19kg cylinder of propane gas – which did not ignite – was found in the roof of Samuel Garside House, according to a report by fire engineering firm Bureau Veritas for the London Fire Brigade.
The report is published exclusively by journalist Jack Simpson in Inside Housing today.
Fire ripped through Samuel Garside House in Barking, east London in June last year, resulting in the evacuation of 61 people and two treated for smoke injuries.
It caused “significant risk to life”, with combustible wooden cladding and plastic mesh on the balconies creating a combination of materials which “meant the fire from a tiny ignition could effect the entirety of the structure”.
Had the fire started on the other side of the building it would have ripped through many neighbouring properties, as there was no separation between the timber.
But far worse disaster was narrowly averted because a 19kg cylinder of propane gas in the roof did not explode.
The report poses a number of questions:
- For Bellway, which built the site
- For NHBC, building control
- For the secretive investors in Adriatic Land 4
- For the Residential Management Group (RMG), which is owned by the Places for People housing association
- For Homeground, which manages Adriatic Land’s assets
It almost beggars belief that, post-Grenfell, a 19kg cylinder of gas – which would explode like a bomb if it ignited – was left in the roof of a block of flats.
Then there is the wood and plastic of the structure, which the report said rapidly spread the fire horizontally and vertically, depositing “flaming molten plastic droplets” and created “small pool fires” below.
It added: “The use of the black plastic netting with wood meant the fire from a tiny ignition could effect the entirety of the structure.”
Inside Housing reports Pete Mason, chair of the Barking Reach Residents Association:
“Landlords and managing agents had two years since Grenfell to inspect and make good the balconies and cladding throughout the estate and did not.
“We feel all the parties and landlords involved failed to make sure the properties were safe and endangered lives.”
Dr Jonathan Evans, chief executive of cladding company Ash and Lacy and fire safety expert, said the report shows that timber used in construction might be more dangerous than previously thought, adding that the Barking fire adds support to the need for the combustibles ban to be brought to any building over 11m.
“Samuel Garside is significant as it suffered a catastrophic fire, but being under 18m its construction would currently still be possible.
“If the combustible ban were to drop to 11m, then this building with these materials would have become impossible.”
A devastating fire in Barking in June last year, which posed “a significant risk to life”, could have spread much more widely and was fuelled by a deadly combination of timber cladding and plastic mesh on balconies, a leaked expert report has revealed.