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Fri December 13 2019

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Bolton fire puts cladding in spotlight again

18 Nov Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service is investigating the role of cladding in the rapid spread of a fire that wrecked a six-storey student housing block on Friday.

The Cube, after the fire (All images from GMFRS)
The Cube, after the fire (All images from GMFRS)

The fire service was called to the fire at The Cube building on Bradshawgate in Bolton at around 8.30pm on 15th November 2019. All occupants got out safely but it took 40 fire engines and specialist appliances and 200 firefighters all night to control the blaze.

The building had been converted from offices to student rooms in 2015. It is managed by Valeo Urban Student Life and houses 220 students.

Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service (GMFRS) inspected the building in 2017 following the fire at Grenfell Tower. It was established that the building did not have the sort of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding that had substantially contributed to the spread of fire at Grenfell.

There are two buildings in The Cube: Phase 1 is classified as a high rise building and Phase 2 (the building involved in the fire) is recorded as being less than 18 metres tall and therefore is not classified as a high rise building.

Tackling the blaze
Tackling the blaze

However, there are concerns that the spread of fire at The Cube may have been due, at least in part, to its cladding system.

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An investigation will be carried out to establish not just the cause of the fire but also the effect that the cladding had on the fire spread, the fire service said.

The GMFRS said: “Following the fire our investigation will consider the materials used within the external wall construction and what if any role these materials played in the development and spread of fire. This investigation will be complex and take some time. No further information about the external wall system will be released at this stage.”

Salford mayor Paul Dennett told the BBC: "We have a bit of a cladding lottery. The government has made resources available for ACM but this is high-pressure laminate, so we will be asking government for more funds to really deal with what is an industrial crisis.

"We need to do a full investigation of this building because it's not just about the cladding, it's about the actual structure of the cladding system and we need to investigate whether compartmentation has been breached and a whole host of different issues."

Assistant county fire officer Dave Keelan speaks to the press at the scene in Bolton
Assistant county fire officer Dave Keelan speaks to the press at the scene in Bolton

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