Gibraltar Government orders fire safety review
The Gibraltar Government has ordered a complete fire safety review of all Government-owned high rise buildings in the wake of the Grenfell Tower inferno, which killed at least 17 people in London this week.
This comes amid intense scrutiny of the type of exterior cladding used on the Grenfell high rise tower block and suggestions that it may have contributed to the spread of the fire.
It also follows orders from Prime Minister Theresa May for a full public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire as emergency services raised the death toll to 17 - with further bodies expected to be found in the top-floor flats.
Her demand for the "terrible tragedy" to be "properly investigated" echoed calls from London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for answers after the blaze left residents in the 24-storey tower block fleeing for their lives.
Answering questions on GBC’s Direct Democracy yesterday, Mr Picardo drew a distinction between the type of cladding used on high-rise buildings in the UK and the cladding used here.
“…We have used metal frames not wooden frames as appears might be the case in the United Kingdom,” he said, underscoring that this information was based on news reports on the subject.
“We know that the cladding used in the UK was aluminium composite and the one being used in Gibraltar is insulated cladding… and we know that ours is class zero low risk.”
He added that Gibraltar has vertical and horizontal fire breaks installed in its cladding.
Mr Picardo said that as soon as reports emerged of a high-rise building on fire he ‘mobilised’ his people to understand if there was anything relevant to Gibraltar’s high-rise buildings; Referendum House, Constitution House and Beach View Terraces.
“We need to understand those issues,” he told the programme.
He further explained that as recently as last month the City Fire Brigade reviewed Gibraltar’s tower blocks and conducted ‘practices’ for the two tower blocks and Beach View Terraces.
“…We’ve had three fires already in the refurbished estates with the cladding on in Gibraltar, we had one in Laguna Estate and we’ve had two in Glacis involving the tower blocks, in both instances we know that the cladding did not act as an accelerator of the fire.”
He added: “We saw that there was no movement upwards of the fire in any of those incidents.”
“We are as reassured as we can be in the context of a few hours only since the incident but we are going to work very hard to ensure that the residence of those high-rise estates and any estate that has had cladding on it are reassured…”
Mr Picardo added that he and his team are doing everything that they can to ensure that “there is not a tragedy like the one we’ve seen” in any of those estates in the future.
“We can’t prevent every tragedy but we can learn from this,” he said.
In a statement the Gibraltar Government said it wished to reassure the public of the safety of its dwellings and particularly the newly refurbished buildings, including the high rise blocks in Glacis Estate.
The Government said it is confident that the refurbishment and the cladding of buildings have been undertaken to the highest of standards.
Following the tragic events caused by the blaze in Grenfell Tower the Minister for Housing, Samantha Sacramento requested a complete fire safety review of the high rise buildings of the Government’s housing stock.
Mr Picardo said: “Late yesterday, I convened all relevant parties through the Minister for Housing and I sought all essential information.”
“We then met today at No.6 to consider all emerging information that might be significant.”
“The public can rest assured that the refurbishment works on the estates have been reviewed already in the light of the tragic events at Grenfell Tower.”
“I am satisfied that our professionals at the Housing Works Agency, GJBS and Gibraltar Fire and Rescue Services are on top of the issues and have been informed of all matters arising from the incident in London. I am sure tenants will find this very reassuring.”
“The condolences of the people and Government of Gibraltar go to all those who have lost friends or family in this terrible tragedy.”
Ms Sacramento said: “Upon hearing the news of the terrible incident in London, I spoke yesterday to the Principal Housing Officer and commissioned a working group of all relevant professionals to ensure that the safety of all our blocks are maintained to the highest standards. We will continue that work as the UK inquiry carries out its work.”
The Housing Department has also reminded tenants that they are not permitted to have any items in the communal areas as this is a breach of the tenancy agreement and constitutes a serious fire risk.
The Department has written to all tenants asking that items be removed within 14 days, failing which items will be removed.