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Cladding Blamed in Skyscraper Fire

Monday, November 26, 2012

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Exterior cladding may be responsible for accelerating a fire that ravaged portions of a 34-story residential building in Dubai, according to reports.

As of Tuesday (Nov. 20) afternoon, Dubai Civil Defense Officials had not determined the initial cause of the Tamweel Tower fire that started about 1 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 18). Tamweel Tower is one of 80 towers that make up the Jumeirah Lake Tower development in the city.

Tower fire in Dubai
Monstilus / YouTube.com

The fire at Tamweel Tower started near the top of the building and moved down, raining down flaming pieces of the building onto the ground.

Fireballs Fall to Ground

There were no reports of injuries. However, as the flames—which started near the top of the building—scaled down the structure, they sent huge chunks of the building and debris to the ground.

Numerous videos of the flaming tower are on YouTube.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated and watched from a distance as the apartment building sizzled, according to reports. The fire was not extinguished until 6 a.m., local news reports noted.

Building Cladding as Fuel

While the cause of the blaze was under investigation, initial reports indicated the building’s exterior cladding may have been the culprit behind the blaze's fierce spread.

Fire damage to tower

The exterior cladding may have contributed to the spreading fire, reports said.

The cladding is believed to have been made with a “combustible thermoplastic core sandwiched between two sheets of aluminum”—the same type used on about 70 percent of high-rise building façades in the United Arab Emirates, according to a report in The National.

“The fire appears to have started on or near the crown at the top of the building, which was covered in this cladding,” Sandy Dweik, of Thomas Bell-Wright International Consultants, told The National.

“The fire then spread down to the cladding, which is installed in strips running down the side of the building.

“The cladding acted as a fuel, and this resulted in the damage we have seen.”

The height of the tower made it difficult for firefighters to tackle the blaze, Dweik told the news bureau.

Resident: ‘No Water, No Sprinkler’

When one of the flaming pieces of the building landed on a 32nd-floor balcony, resident John Stead said he and others tried to extinguish the blaze using a hose from the hallway, according to reports.

“We rolled it out, but there was no water in the pump,” he said. “At that point, we saw the fire catch on the lower part of the building and decided it was a good idea to leave as soon as possible.”

He added that there was no sprinkler system in operation.

Ban on Panels?

The UAE is considering bans on flammable panels in high-rise buildings, as the building materials have played roles in numerous recent tower fires in the area, according to reports.

JLT Towers
DMCCJLT / Wikimedia Commons

Tamweel Tower is one of 80 towers built or under construction along four artificial lakes in Dubai.

Other reports say the Tamweel fire may prompt officials to institute greater fire-safety and evacuation planning in the UAE, where hundreds of thousands of people live in high-rise structures.

The Jumeirah Lake Tower development houses about 60,000 residents.

Owner Statements, Past Fire

In a statement issued Monday, Tamweel Tower owners and the Jumeirah Lake developer, Dubai Multi-Commodities Centresay, said they were working closely with Dubai Civil Defense to ensure the well being of owners and residents who lost their homes.

A Tamweel official told The National that it was too early to draw conclusions about the fire and that a full investigation was underway.

This is not the only fire that has occured at the Jumeirah Lake Towers development. In 2007, two construction workers died and 40 others were injured when a fire broke out in the upper floors of a 35-story tower that was under construction, according to reports. BBC News images posted here show the fire engulfing the building.


Tagged categories: Aluminum; Building envelope; Building facades; Cladding; Fire

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