Grenfell Fire Cause: What Started the Devastating London Blaze?


A view of Grenfell Tower (Getty)

A devastating fire ripped through Grenfell Tower in London, sending at least 50 to the hospital and leaving more feared missing.  Although you may have heard early on that the fire was caused by an exploding appliance, authorities actually have not verified this account yet. Residents have been sharing concerns about fire safety and protocols at Grenfell Tower for years — concerns that they fear may have made the entire situation worse.

Here’s what we know so far. This story will be updated as more information is available.

Early Reports Said a Refrigerator Might Have Exploded on the Fourth Floor, But This Has Not Been Verified

Early reports said the fire might have started from a refrigerator exploding, but it’s unclear at this time if that is accurate. One resident from the fourth floor told BBC that it might have been caused by a “fridge freezer.” And one fourth-floor resident told Sky News early on that a neighbor’s refrigerator had exploded around 1 a.m. and they were knocking on doors, trying to warn people. The story has not yet been verified.

Residents Were Told to Stay in Their Rooms in Case of Fire

Although the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, residents are already voicing concerns about Grenfell Tower policies that may have put them at risk. One policy that has been questioned is a statement from Grenfell Tower telling residents that unless there was a fire affecting their flat or block, “you should initially be safe to stay in your flat keeping the doors and windows closed.”

Michael Paramaseevan confirmed this with BBC:

I had been told if there ever was an outbreak of a fire you must stay in your premises.”

There Was Only One Staircase in the Tower and, Residents Said, No Fire Alarms

Residents reported that Grenfell Tower had either no central fire alarm system or it failed, since many of them said they never heard a fire alarm, according to Daily Mail. Only smoke alarms in individual flats worked, they said. In addition, residents claimed there was possibly no central sprinkler system, or it also failed during the fire.

Resident Zoe told BBC that she was on the fourth floor, where the fire started. Someone banged on her door telling her there was a fire. The landing was thick with smoke, but no smoke alarms were sounding, she said.

Paul Munakr, who lives on the seventh floor, confirmed with BBC that the fire alarms weren’t working. He realized there was a fire from people screaming, not from hearing alarms:

“The main thing for me with this incident is the fact that the fire alarms didn’t go off in the building.”

Another concern was that there was only one staircase for all 24 stories. Media reports indicated that the fire was spreading through the stairs, in addition to other places:

Previous Concerns Were Raised About KCTMO, the Organization Managing the Tower

Residents had raised many concerns about KCTMO, which manages the Grenfell Tower. These concerns centered around fire risks, stating that they were worried only a catastrophe would uncover mismanagement. (Read more about KCTMO in Heavy’s story here.)

The Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and underwent refurbishment from 2012 to 2016. This may have included new aluminum composite cladding with thermal insulation, Sky News reported. Concerns have been raised before about the safety of certain types of aluminum composite cladding, but it’s not known if this was the type used in the tower.

At this time, the exact cause of the Grenfell Tower has not been released by officials, as first responders still battle the blaze. But policies and a lack of fire escapes may have made things worse, residents worry.

KCTMO & Grenfell Fire: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

KCTMO, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization, runs Grenfell Tower. It has been the subject of many complaints over the years.

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