18:39 GMT +319 November 2019
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    Fire damaged cladding is seen on the lower floors of the fire-gutted Grenfell Tower in London, Friday, June 16, 2017, after a fire engulfed the 24-story building Wednesday morning

    Norwegians Alarmed Over Flammable Facade Cladding After London Blaze

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    The Grenfell Tower blaze, one of the deadliest in recent years, sent shockwaves through the UK, but also alarmed European nations using the same construction methods. In Norway, the same facade blocks as those used in the ill-fated high-rise are still common.

    Numerous eyewitnesses of the fire, which claimed at least 30 lives, said it spread explosively through plastic façade boards from the fourth floor upward. Subsequently, the metal sheets of the cladding were found to have melted away when exposed to high flames, which set the inner polystyrene foam on fire. As a result of this, "flame droplets" were falling onto lower floors, while the flames spread higher up. This type of cladding was reportedly banned in the US for security reasons, yet is still widely used across Europe, namely in Norway.

    Norwegian Fire Protection Association CEO Rolf Søtorp, who took part in a recent panel conference on the causes of the Grenfell Tower fire, told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that the type of polystyrene boards with which the 24-storey high-rise was plated three or four years ago, was also common in Norway, yet with no statistics available. Typically, this kind of solution is used when refurbishing blocks of flats from the 1970s and 80s.

    The Oslo Fire and Rescue Service reported that plastic boards tend to be used more than before.

    "It is not forbidden to use flammable insulation, but it requires special knowledge to make it fireproof. It may be particularly important to be aware of this when performing façade rehabilitation and insulation of buildings," fire inspector Frode Michaelsen wrote Aftenposten in an email.

    According to Michaelsen, wrong assembly or careless insulation may have major consequences.

    "We see solutions using combustible materials, which are naturally much more vulnerable, compared to the non-combustible ones and can contribute to the rapid spread of fire and smoke."

    According to Anne Steen-Hansen of RISE Fire Research laboratory it is best to avoid allowing a fire that started inside an apartment to spread out of windows and upward on the façade.

    Norway has previously experienced fires that had spread on the outside of buildings. In 2006, a flowerbed self-ignited on a balcony, turning Vik Square in Hole Municipality into ashes. Following heavy criticism, Norwegian fire regulations were significantly tightened, as reports indicated deviations from construction regulations and inadequacies in evacuation plans.


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    fire, Scandinavia, United Kingdom, Norway, London
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