London Fire Fire Saftey comments

No one wanting to start a thread on this fire?

One of my mentors as a young engineer (Ray Grant) told me that in the UK, 20 fire engines pumping water onto a fire was a great fire save. In NZ, a single sprinkler operating is our equivalent.

If this fire occurred in NZ, we would have had the occupants of the apartment moaning about black smelly water, and possible, the occupants of the apartment below on the front page of the local rag moaning that they were uninsured and that the sprinkler water damaged their 55” flat screen TV.

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I was surprised the method of triggering evacuation was to knock on the neighbour’s doors.

One of my mates in the UK has suggested that existing buildings have very few requirements when they are being altered. I really have no idea though, maybe someone would be able to inform us?

Have a look at the some buildings from 2000s in Auckland….especially Bankside- MBIE Determination

And the scary thing is that the building could probably be designed by VM and “pass”….meaning legally compliant death trap…

What depresses me is the obvious loss of life in a residential building. And what value do we put on life?

When I think of how NZ have a system that provides for compliance to the minimum (using an AS or VM as the excuse for their poor design, but which passes the “test” so must be given consent). Anything above the minimum is too hard to do as a “specific design”.

Still I have been saying that for years.

I worked for the London Fire Authority (GLC) 1980 - 85. The fire protection levels were already lagging in terms of automatic fire alarms and systems. NZS1900 Ch 5 used here 1964 - 1992 generally required more systems.
I cant believe these buildings still rely on the ‘stay in place’ philosophy with little or no alarms - which surprised me even back then.
The design concept was to contain the fire to a single apartment with (mainly brick or concrete) fire separation walls and floors. The concept was far from ideal and the combustible cladding would have negated the ‘containment’ allowing rapid fire spread between levels.

No doubt there will be growing justifiable anger and and blame in London, though it is not always directed where it should be. This seems to be a systemic failure of codes, regulations, management, and systems on numerous levels.
Exterior claddings have been at the root of many publicised fires in recent years. Sadly this one spread to the interior, most others did not. How many more of these time bombs are out there waiting to happen?

NZ tightened cladding controls earlier this year. No doubt they will be looked at again.
NZ protection standards and mainly ‘all out’ evacuation procedures should prevent such a catastrophic failure.
Hopefully Chris Maks tongue in cheek comment is the level of disaster we might see.
I don’t believe this building would have gotten thru the VM and passed without sprinklers (and more) - though sprinklers would potentially not control the external fire spread!

Very Sad for all involved.

Frank - yes, very sad.

It takes a disaster to effect real change. We’ve had our share, including the Napier Earthquake, Seacliffe Fire, Bayntynes fire amongst others.

Some useful links to help to continue and inform the discussion.

Also don’t forget that this forum can be viewed by the public.

Link to MBIE explanation of cladding changes

MBIE Guidance on ACM Panels

Stuff article about the facade on Grenfell with some close up photos of what is left

Wikipedia page

Stuart Harris from Holmes Fire Interview on News Hub (starting at 4:44)

Michael James from Origin Fire interviews on One News and Radio NZ

Geoff Thomas from Victoria University on why Grenfell would be unlikely to happen in NZ

Geoff Merryweather from Anvil Fire on concerns raised over NZ Fire regulations

Michael James

There has been at least one article stating that the most appropriate action is to stay in place during a fire. The article has come through the Associated Press and was published on

Despite that outcome, fire experts say “stay put” is still the best advice - as long as the building has proper fire-suppression protections, such as multiple stairwells, sprinkler systems, fireproof doors and flame-resistant construction materials, some of which were lacking in the London blaze.

I find it hard to believe that there are “experts” that still believe the fireproof room mythology. Could everyone clearly communicate that if fire alarms activate that means that you leave the building. The media is sending mixed messages when almost all buildings are not suitable to remain in place during a fire (unless specifically designed for that purpose).

I have heard that one scenario (from a source in the UK) that is being considered is that a fridge compressor blew up and fractured a gas pipe in the flat. Therefore in that scenario and with the additional spread up the side of the building, the sprinkler system may well have been overcome in the early stages (as it may not be a fire per se but a fire following explosion).

I think this needs a letter to the editor by the President, outlining differing potential designs, which in turn, rely on EWIS systems and the like.

He’s been doing a good job fronting the press, from what I’ve seen,.

There are a lot of issues being raised about the gas installation in the building.

The following link I was sent separately. It is claimed to be the gas installation in the corridor which is referenced in the linked article above. The photo is not verified as real so take this with a grain of salt.

Another link

The title is sensational but the words and video are more balanced.

Michael James

For those that are interested the following link is to the webcached version of WITT’s mechanical design description that they removed from their site. It appears to discuss a corridor pressurisation system activated by the building’s fire alarm system. I am not clear what fire alarm system there was supposed to be but this is their own description.

Is the Grand Chancellor in Auckland of a similar cladding type? Not sure why I am thinking that and admittedly it is from memory (when I was in the Auckland seat). I cant even remember who the designer (s) was/were. May be worth looking if there are any questions…? I am pretty sure someone will dig in Auckland and find a few.

SFPE should be issuing a press release later today.

The media are very interested fire safety in apartments so there is an opportunity for SFPE to have an article on general fire safety concepts in apartment buildings. It would be great if clients were asking for safety rather than us having to sell it.


Totally agree Michael…times may have changed but buildings like Bankside (Waldorf Hotel) are still standing. The Determination in 04/05 allows it to be. SMOE with a type 3 system and open stairs.

Looks like steel to me. Seems a little bit incongruous that a refrigerator fire would cause this to fail catastrophically. Maybe, but…

Correction - I thought Michael was President. No slight intended on either Michael of Geoff in my comment stating that the President was doing a good job.

Chris I believe everything about Grenfell Tower is speculation until there is a detailed investigation. I’m just putting up information that is out in the public domain, and I recommend being critical of it. I doubt the accuracy of the information available, even the claim of the corridor pressurisation system seems unusual.