Fire crews tackle major blaze at Downtown Dubai high-rise
Fire fighters tackled a large fire at a high-rise in Downtown Dubai in the early hours of Monday, 7 November 2022. The fire broke out early Monday at a 35-storey high-rise in downtown Dubai near the world's tallest building, racing up the side of the structure in the same way seen in other blazes fuelled by flammable siding material. A resident at the 8 Boulevard Walk said that the high-rise has cladding that officials planned to replace after a similar blaze tore through an iconic tower on New Year's Eve in 2015. However, that cladding was not replaced across the entire building, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The fire raced up one side of the building, while other sides appeared untouched. The damage appeared particularly intense around the fourth floor.
The fire started around 02h30am, with housekeepers and building guards racing through its floors to check apartments on each floor, a resident said.
The flames were out by dawn, with a large part of the facade charred.
“All residents were safely evacuated and there were no injuries or casualties,” said Dubai Civil Defence. “The teams arrived at the scene five minutes after the operations room was alerted of the fire at 03h11am. The field commander confirmed at 04h52am that the fire had been brought under control and at 06h08am, the operations were completely over and the site was handed over to the authorities concerned to take the necessary action.”
Dubai Police cordoned off the area so recovery work could take place and debris cleared from the streets below. It is thought some apartments have smoke and water damage.
Witnesses said the fire broke out on one of the lower floors, possibly floor four and then rapidly spread to the cladding.
Fire drills were regularly held at the tower, occupied by many families and young children - all of whom are reported to have been evacuated safely. Most just left with the clothes they were wearing, with families taken to nearby Address, Rove and Ramada hotels.
Security staff, Dubai Civil Defence and police were on the ground to help with the recovery operation.
The building is part of a tower complex called 8 Boulevard Walk by Emaar, the developer.
"A Dubai Civil Defence spokesperson confirmed that Dubai high-rises comply with strict structural and fire safety standards that conform to international codes and regulations,” a later statement from the Dubai Media Office said, without naming the official.
While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire in Dubai and elsewhere weren’t designed to meet stricter safety standards and often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze. That includes the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London that killed 72 people in the greatest loss of life in a fire on British soil since World War II.
Regulations are now in place for new construction in Dubai regarding the cladding. In 2017, a Civil Defence official said those with flammable cladding on their buildings would “have to change it” under normal maintenance schedules, but it remains unclear if that's been enforced in this city-state, one of seven that comprise the autocratic United Arab Emirates.
On New Year's Eve in 2015, a blaze raced through the Address Downtown, one of the most upscale hotels and residences in Dubai near the Burj Khalifa. Some 15 people were injured in the fire and the evacuation. Dubai police ended up blaming exposed wiring for the blaze.
In September of this year, Orient Insurance lost an appeal for a 1,25 billion dirham (more than $340 million) payout to Emaar over the fire after it tried to blame the developer. The judgement said the building cladding might have contributed to the spread of the fire but was not the cause of it.
Sources: The Associated Press, The National News, Greenwich Time
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