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Dubai's Torch Tower Burns a Second Time

Monday, August 7, 2017

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Fire broke out at 1 a.m. local time in the 87-story, 1,100-foot tall residential skyscraper known as Torch Tower in Dubai early Friday (Aug. 4).

This is the second time the structure has caught fire in as many years, with many blaming its cladding—a combination of aluminum panels and combustible plastic cores, not unlike the ones used in the fatal June 14 fire in London’s Grenfell Tower.

The Fire

Officials say the fire burned for over two hours, with ignited debris falling to areas below. Fire crews finally had the blaze under control at around 3:30 a.m.

The tower has 676 apartments, and reportedly 38 of them were burnt or destroyed in the fire, and the flames reached 64 floors up the facade of the building.

No injuries were reported, though a few people were treated for smoke inhalation, reports indicate.

The cause of the fire not known, though one resident told the Telegraph they were told the fire started on the 67th floor.

Kingfield Owner Association Management Services, the company that manages the tower’s 84 residential floors and three service floors, did not provide much detail when answering press questions.

"The safety of all residents and staff is of the utmost importance, and our efforts are currently focused on arranging the necessary emergency accommodation for residents," spokesperson Anel-Carline Beukes said.

The tower’s developer, Select Group, has not commented on the incident.

The History

This is just the latest in a string of fires over the past handful of years, and the second in the same tower, which also caught fire in 2015. No one was injured in that blaze, either.

During both fires at Torch Tower, alarms and building personnel worked to evacuate everyone from the building. The structure is not equipped with sprinklers.

The Torch Tower was built in 2011, two years before the United Arab Emirates revised its building safety codes to require cladding on any newly construction buildings over 50 feet tall be fire-resistant. That code change did not impact any buildings already constructed.

The decision was made after the 2015 fire to fully renovate the Torch Tower’s exterior cladding and that work is believed to be ongoing.

While the amended UAE code did not stretch to already-complete buildings, a major fire on New Year’s Eve in 2015 that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel and injured 16 people, did convince Dubai to pass fire safety rules last year that require buildings with “quick-burning side paneling” to replace it with fire-resistant siding.

Officials estimate that at least 30,000 buildings in the UAE (about 70 percent) and 250 high-rises in Dubai are fitted with such combustible cladding systems. The hard part, authorities say, is enforcing the new regulation.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Aluminum; Cladding; Fire; Residential; Safety

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