MFB has found that the cause of the Docklands fire on 25 November 2014 was accidental, due to an unextinguished cigarette on the balcony.
MFB also found that the excessive storage of materials on the initial balcony had allowed the fire to grow to such an extent that it ignited the external cladding.
MFB Chief Officer Peter Rau said the fire at Lacrosse Docklands in Latrobe Street was challenging due to the speed in which it spread from floor to floor.
He praised the quick work of firefighters and the building’s sprinkler system in preventing further damage from the fire, which burnt vertically from the 6th floor to the top of the building on the 21st floor.
Mr Rau said that MFB commissioned the CSIRO to test some of the external cladding used in the construction of Lacrosse Docklands for compliance.
In mid-April the CSIRO confirmed that the cladding Alucobest did not comply with combustibility requirements for a high-rise building and contributed to the spread of the fire.
“The external cladding material on this building did not prevent the spread of the fire as required by the Building Code of Australia,” he said.
Mr Rau said firefighters also found high occupancy rates of residents in some of the apartments and excessive amounts of combustible material stored on the balconies.
He said the sprinkler system operated well above its designed capability and minimised the impact on a number of apartments when the fire spread from the balcony to the inside of the apartment.
MFB’s investigation showed that the fire started accidentally on the 8th floor from a cigarette that had not been disposed of correctly.
The large amount of material stored on the balcony fuelled the fire until it ignited the external wall cladding. This caused the fire to rapidly spread up the vertical wall and involve the balconies above to the top of the building. Fire debris and embers also fell on to the balcony of the sixth level, starting a fire around the air conditioner compressor unit.
Among the recommendations to come out of the report MFB has called for designers and certifiers to adopt building products with current certificates, and ensure compliance with all conditions imposed on the certificate.
MFB has also called for greater regulation of occupancy rates of apartments, and the possibility of sprinklers on all covered balconies.
MFB’s Post Incident Analysis Reports has now been given to the Victorian Building Authority and the City of Melbourne to assess the recommendations.
MFB’s report on the fire, including the conclusion and recommendations, has been posted on the MFB website.
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