ONE year on from the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster in London and Bathurst’s firefighters are working with local business to ensure tough new Australian building codes are met.
On June 14 last year, 71 people were killed when an accidental blaze spread through a high-rise residential tower – the cause was blamed on a fridge/freezer but the fire was fueled by flammable cladding on the outside of the building.
Since then, tough new construction codes have been enforced across Australia to ensure cladding manufactured and used on the inside or outside of buildings meets appropriate standards during a fire.
On Wednesday, Bathurst company Supawood Architectural Lining Systems asked Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) crews to be part of a live fire testing process on some of its internal acoustic panels.
Supawood business and product innovation’s Julian Beattie said the main change was that previous fire tests “didn’t take into account the panel joints”.
“We’re looking at which of our products is the most flammable and least flammable, and then the most flammable goes into another full room test,” he said.
During testing, various panels were erected in a shipping container and then a container of fuel set on fire alongside them.
Supawood staff and firefighters then monitored damage to panels for a prescribed time to determine if they were compliant to the updated code.
Mr Beattie said the Grenfell tragedy, and a similar one in a 20-storey apartment building in Melbourne’s Docklands in 2014 where 500 people were evacuated, have ensured people were more aware of the need for non-flammable cladding to be used.
Bathurst FRNSW Station Officer Doug Fisk said in his 15 years as a firefighter he had witnessed how quickly highly-combustible items caught fire and how little time it left people to escape the burning building.
“We used to have hardwoods and less plastics, but now buildings are full of combustible materials,” he said. “If buildings are not made with fire ratings in mind, people have got far less time [to get out] and it’s more dangerous and it becomes more important to have an escape plan.”
Station Officer Fisk said being part of the tests helped firefighters learn more about fire behaviour in modern building products.
“It’s important for us to know how it’s going to behave and react in a fire,” he said.
Station Officer Fisk said every home should have a fire escape plan in conjunction with a working smoke alarm.
Visit Fire and Rescue NSW online to find out more about home fire escape plan.