Fatal Valencia fire sparks cladding criticism

Fatal Valencia fire sparks cladding criticism

Valencia, Spain is currently facing an ongoing blaze after a block of apartments caught fire in the early evening.

On the 23rd of February, reports confirmed that at least four people have died and approximately 20 are missing after a fire engulfed the 14-story tower of flats, before spreading to an adjoining building.

The cause of the fire is unknown; however, experts claim that the highly flammable cladding on the building allowed the fire to spread rapidly.

A witness came forward to tell TVE about how fast the fire was able to spread.

Luis Ibanez told the publication that the fire took over the block “within a matter of minutes” and it was “as if it was made of cork.”

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The whole side of the building directly opposite was on fire,” she said.

Another witness who lives on the second floor told TV channel La Sexta: “The fire spread in a matter of 10 minutes.”

The man went on to suggest that the material on the facade of the building may have caused the fire to spread quickly.

The fire has now opened scrutiny on building materials which were used between 2008-2009 to construct homes.

Esther Puchades, vice president of the College of Industrial Technical Engineers of Valencia, told Efe: “The reason the [building] burned so fast is because of this type of cladding.”

David Higuera, an engineer, went on to express his expert opinion that the aluminium plates with a foam insulator attached to the outer layer of the building are “very good at insulating against heat and cold, but very combustible.”

Writing on X, Twitter, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “Dismayed by the terrible fire in a building in Valencia… I want to convey my solidarity to all the people affected and recognition to all the emergency personnel already deployed at the scene.”

Official days of mourning will be declared in the city as per the confirmation of the Major.

However, after the Grenfell tragedy in the UK which took the lives of 72 in 2017 when the cladding used enabled rapid and sustained fire, for more than 60 hours, it poses questions about lax action on removing dangerous cladding.

The UK is currently changing its laws around what building materials can be used on high-rise buildings.

Similar to Valencia, the Grenfell disaster involved a polyethylene-cored aluminium composite material cladding.

The Valencia flats used polyurethane, however both materials are highly flammable.