London apartment fire: Locals blame lack of sprinklers and flammable cladding

The catastrophic spread of the fire at London's Grenfell Tower on Wednesday (local time) is being blamed on the building's lack of water sprinklers, extinguishers and fire alarms, and its possibly flammable cladding.

Faulty fire extinguishers

It's been revealed that in the past few years a residents' group from the apartment block had raised multiple concerns about the fire risk.

A lack of emergency exits was one of its main complaints, as well as defective fire extinguishers.

On the group's blog site a 2013 Fire Risk Assessment says: "The fire extinguisher in this building, the basement boiler room, the lift motor room, the ground floor electrical room plus other areas were out of test date according to the contractors label on the extinguishers.

"The last test date was on the 8th August 2011. Some located in the roof level areas had 'condemned' written on them in large black writing with a last test date of 2009 or 2010."

It's not known if the extinguishers were replaced since the assessment.

'Fire alarms didn't go off'

On Wednesday, seventh floor resident Paul Munakr told the BBC: "I managed to get out the building, not by a fire alarm, or something like that, it was by people down below screaming to people, don't jump, don't jump off the building.

"Now, honestly I don't know for certain if people jumped off the building to get away from the fire, but the main thing for me with this incident is the fact that the fire alarms didn't go off in the building."

No sprinklers

London Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, who was a firefighter for more than 20 years, has slammed the Government, saying it resisted calls to install sprinkler systems in the UK's high-rise blocks.

In January 2016 Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tried passing a law requiring landlords to make homes 'fit for human habitation' - but it was voted down by the ruling Conservative Party. Mr Corbyn has again demanded the government address the issue of installing sprinklers in UK apartment blocks.

Flammable cladding

The Grenfell Tower had recently undergone a refurbishment of the exterior, which included new external cladding and replacement windows.

Online records show contractor Harley Facades Limited had installed "over-cladding with ACM cassette rainscreen" at Grenfell Tower, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

ACM - aluminium composite material - is the same flammable product that's been blamed for up to a dozen high-rise fires around the world in the past ten years.

"It was burning like paper, it wasn't the building, it wasn't the structure. That cladding - it was just like throwing fuel on the fire," a Grenfell Tower witness told local media.

A spokesperson for Harley Facades told Sun Online: "Harley Facades Limited completed the refurbishment work to Grenfell Tower. This included the installation of exterior cladding.

"The Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) panels are a commonly used product in the refurbishment industry."