Tower Fire Rekindles Cladding Concern


A massive blaze in Dubai at one of the world’s tallest residential towers has reignited a debate over cladding used on high-rise structures in the region.

Officials were still searching Tuesday (Feb. 24) for the cause of the fire that broke out about 2 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 21) in the 86-story skyscraper called The Torch.

Built in 2011, The Torch is located in Dubai’s Marina district, which is home to a number of high-rise apartments and hotels. 

No casualties were reported. About seven people were reportedly treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

Panels Probed

It is believed that The Torch is clad in aluminum composite panels with a thermoplastic core sandwiched between, a system considered highly flammable, reports indicate.

The same materials were reportedly used on the 34-story Tamweel Tower, just over a mile away from the Torch.

In November 2012, a cigarette ignited a fire at the Tamweel that quickly zipped down the building. The building’s cladding was said to have accelerated the flame spread. The tower now stands empty, reports relate.

Similar cladding is used on 70 percent of the high-rise building facades in the United Arab Emirates, according to a report in The National. UAE has considered a ban on the flammable panels.

The Torch Fire

The Torch fire began on the 51st floor and scaled up to the 79th with the help of strong winds, reports relate.

© / ventdusud

The Torch tower is located in the densely populated waterfront Marina District.

Flaming chunks of the building and debris rained to the ground, according to witnesses.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated and watched from a distance as the fire sent bright yellow flames several stories into the air.

Some residents captured videos on their cell phones. Residents of at least one nearby tower were evacuated as a precaution.

Many of the residents reported that the building’s fire alarms sounded frequently, so they thought it was a false alarm.

Quick Response

The fire was extinguished about 4:30 a.m., reports note.

“The incident proved Dubai Civil Defence’s ability to control the fire and stop it from spreading to the tower’s other wings and to nearby buildings by following strict protocols to break in quickly and reach the source of the fire on the 51st floor,” Maj. Gen. Rashid Al Matroushi, the director of Dubai Civil Defence, told media outlets.

About 100 officers played a role in putting out the fire, he said.

Images here show the damage to the tower's upper floors.

Owner: No Structural Damage

The building’s management firm told The National that the structure of the building had not been affected by the blaze, as much of the damage was sustained and contained in the balcony areas.

Tamwell Tower

The cladding of the Tamwell Tower is believed to have contributed to the quick spread of a 2012 blaze that was ignited by a cigarette.

“It appears that most of the damage was limited to the exterior cladding, and that the fire damage is far less than expected initially,” according to Kingfield Owner Association Management Services.

The Torch houses 676 residential apartments and six retail units. The 1,155-foot-tower is the fifth-tallest residential building in the world.

Designed by Khatib & Alami, the The Torch is one of Dubai's most-sought-after residences, according to the developer, Select Group.

The building was built to code and all approvals were obtained before completion, the management company said.


Tagged categories: Aluminum; Building Envelope; Building envelope; Building facades; Cladding; Fire; Middle East

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