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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

After Torch fire, we must pursue all possible safety options

Retrofitting safer cladding and introducing fire barriers should be considered 

Fire ripped through The Torch, one of the tallest towers in Dubai, on August 4. This is the second blaze to hit the skyscraper after a previous incident in 2015 caused extensive damage to its luxury flats. Karim Sahib / AFP
Fire ripped through The Torch, one of the tallest towers in Dubai, on August 4. This is the second blaze to hit the skyscraper after a previous incident in 2015 caused extensive damage to its luxury flats. Karim Sahib / AFP

In the aftermath of the second fire to hit The Torch tower in Dubai, questions have been asked about long-term solutions in a city where many high-rise buildings are clad. The blaze quickly spread to 64 floors after it took hold at the weekend, raising concern about how such a fast-moving fire could be stalled or prevented in future.

As similar incidents have shown, improving fire safety requires a long-term approach that involves both building owners and the authorities being responsible for ensuring rules are followed and enforced. But given that many people live in high-rise buildings, it is no longer enough to wait on a wholesale fix of buildings' cladding. That is why the authorities are evaluating whether fire-resistant barriers can be retrofitted to older buildings. Options being considered include placing fire-resistant material at regular intervals, partially removing flammable aluminum cladding and adding sprinklers on balconies, according to one expert.

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Read more:

Dubai's Torch tower residents move back in to their apartments

Dubai Torch tower blaze: residents thought it was a false alarm

Dubai community rallies around displaced Torch tower residents

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This summer has been marked by major incidents at home and abroad. The Grenfell Road fire in London opened global discussions about how the use of aluminium panels contributed to the disaster. Amendments to safety rules in this country mean that no developer can use non-fire resistant panels on a building, but that still leaves the open question of those towers, and there are hundreds of them, completed before revised legislation was enforced at the start of the year. While the best solution would be for building owners to work out a schedule to retrofit towers with new, safer cladding, it is right and smart to explore other options and for this country to look at leading the way in what is, after all, a global issue. Thankfully, through a combination of the sterling work of the emergency services and calm and clear evacuation procedures, there were no fatalities in last weekend's fire. But there is no room for complacency. We must be unstinting in our pursuit of safety measures and in improving standards.