Yet another serious fire broke out in one of Dubai’s very tall towers on Wednesday afternoon 20 July – the 75-storey residential Sulafa Tower located in the Dubai Marina district of the Emirate.
Major General Rashid Thani Al Matroushi, Director General of Dubai Civil Defence, said in a statement that the fire was brought under control within two hours and there were no casualties reported. All residents were evacuated to ensure their safety and the Civil Defence teams were conducting a complete survey of the tower on Wednesday night, whilst many residents were being found alternative accommodation.
The Salafa fire spread rapidly both up and down the external face of the tower, much as happened during a string of earlier serious tall tower fires that have occurred in recent times in Dubai, most spectacularly at the Address Downtown Hotel on New Years Eve 2015, and in March 2016 in the UAE’s Ajman Emirate. As the Salafa fire spread upwards, large burning fragments of the tower’s facia panels crashed down to the street, with the risk of starting additional fires.
At least 15 fire engines and 80 firefighters from five Dubai fire stations – Al Marsa, Al Barsha, Al Quoz, Al Rashidiya, and Al Satwa tackled the fire with street temperatures reaching 45C adding to the physical challenges faced by the firefighting teams. Major General Al Matroushi paid tribute to the outstanding work carried out by the fire crews.
The problem that has been identified by all the recent tower fires is the use on tower facias of combustible external aluminium composite panels (ACP’s). The principal concern of the fire risk of ACP’s is their propensity to spread fire very rapidly, both upwards and downwards, due to their ‘sandwich’ filling of a flammable polyurethane and other foam-based material.
The use of ACP’s was banned by government regulation in 2013, when UAE Civil Defence announced an extension to existing UAE fire safety code requiring owners of high-rise towers with flammable cladding panels to install a ring of fire retardant panels on every third floor to stop fire spread, together with external sprinklers and drenchers. A revision of the Code is currently in hand to address the ongoing problem of ACP’s.
However, in the meantime many of Dubai’s 200 plus tall towers were completed before the 2013 ban, and must be considered vunerable to the risk of fire so graphically demonstrated by this most recent outbreak. Gulf Fire will continue to report on developments to address this serious fire protection issue on all the tower structures concerned.