Residents fearful after fire engulfs Poplar tower block with Grenfell-style cladding

Emergency services were called to the residential area at 9am Pic: Fenella Breaks

Residents living near a 19-storey tower block in Poplar with cladding similar to Grenfell Tower described yesterday how they watched as the fire took hold.

Firefighters battled the blaze on the eighth, ninth and 10th floors of the block at New Providence Wharf, in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, getting it under control by 11.30am.

Building developer Ballymore said last night that the cladding did not combust and “played no part” in causing the fire.

But those living near the fire, which saw two adults taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation and a further 38 adults and four children treated at the scene, spoke of their unease.

Paul, who lives the other side of the river, noticed the smoke at about nine yesterday morning, he said: “I looked outside the window and I could see smoke, I thought first of all the building was venting steam, but I soon realised there was a fire when I heard fire engines starting to arrive.

“My son lives with his girlfriend in a place that has cladding issues- they now obviously have a 24-hour fire alarm system throughout the building… but it makes the property worthless.”

Paul, who rigorously checked whether his new flat had the same cladding as Grenfell, added: “Something has got to be done, we’re waiting and waiting and waiting, things need to move on.”

Layla, 22 who lives in the Michigan building next door to the affected block said: “It’s just awful that it hasn’t been questioned or even looked at after Grenfell…it’s just something that is not okay…it is just awful really.”

Investigations are underway to find out what cause the fire, PIC: Fenella Breaks

About 22 per cent of the facade of the building features aluminium composite material polyethylene (ACM PE) cladding panels, which were found to be a key factor in the 2017 Grenfell fire.

A spokesperson for Ballymore said yesterday: “The cause of the fire has yet to be determined and we continue to work closely with the London Fire Brigade (LFB) during their investigations. We can however confirm that the ACM cladding on the building did not combust and played no part in causing or facilitating the fire.

The fire started on the eighth floor and spread up to the ninth and 10th floors before response units arrived at the scene.

Firefighters and policemen wandered in and out of the cornered off areas, taking breaks and accepting refreshments from the nearby café and parked Salvation Army van, supporting the emergency services. 

One witness who walks past the block everyday told ELL: “I dropped my son off this morning at school and went back home, within minutes it was on fire.”

Ballymore said that works had actually began two weeks earlier to start removing the ACM cladding. They added: “The works will recommence as soon as possible.”

Grenfell United, the group that speaks for those who survived the fire in June 2017, and the bereaved, said in a statement on Twitter: “We are horrified by the news of the fire at the New Providence Wharf today. When will the government take this scandal seriously? Enough is enough.”

The LFB sent 20 fire engines to the block on Fairmont Avenue. Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills said: “The fire was on the eighth, ninth and tenth floors resulting in us carrying out 35 rescues, 22 using our fire escape hoods, and a further 18 people self-evacuated. This was a very dynamic and challenging incident and clearly there will be some people that will be looking at this and linking it to the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire.”

Residents were evacuated and believed to be now staying in the nearby hotel, the Radisson.

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