Grenfell cladding firm continued sales despite fires in the Middle East

Grenfell cladding firm continued sales despite fires in the Middle East
A public inquiry into the disaster sought to establish the cause behind the Grenfell tower fire, which killed 72 residents of the high-rise flats.
2 min read
13 February, 2021
The Grenfell fire killed 72 of the residents living in the flats [Getty]
The manufacturer of the Grenfell Tower cladding did not withdraw its combustible panels from sale due to "commercial reasons", even after establishing that they were part of a string of fires in high-rise buildings in the Middle East, a UK inquiry heard this week.  

Before the West London tower-block went up in flames in 2017, Arconic - the manufacturer of the cladding on the building - had discussed withdrawing from sales the polyethylene core material, which was made in 2013, Deborah French, a former UK sales manager for Arconic who told the inquiry.

"They used to sell tens and tens and tens of thousands of sq metres of that stuff every month," French said about the Arconic cladding sold to the United Arab Emirates.

She added that although competitors were considering withdrawing similar cladding from their markets, Arconic decided to continue sales because it would have been more profitable than switching to the fire-retardant version of the same product.

French said she could not "recall any conversations" regarding the safety of the cladding, and previous findings of the inquiry heard that the company executives in France knew about the material's flammability. 

Grenfell Tower, located in the heart of London's wealthiest areas, was set alight in the early hours of 14 June, 2017 after a fire incident in the kitchen of a 4th floor apartment. Within minutes, the whole tower was engulfed in flames with dozens of residents instructed by authorities to stay locked indoors as per safety protocol.

The tower had no alarms or sprinklers, and documents that surfaced in the aftermath of the blaze showed the residents had raised concerns over fire safety in the tower block for several years prior to the incident.

The public inquiry into the disaster - the worst blaze since World War Two - was paused in March because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and seeks to establish the cause behind this tragedy which killed 72 of the residents living in the flats.

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