The Grenfell Tower fire was not a typical high-rise fire. The cladding on the building has been found to have acted as an accelerant. Cladding is a material that is put on top of a building’s structure to provide a degree of thermal insulation and weather resistance, and to improve the appearance. The flawed cladding on the Grenfell Tower was put into place to improve the appearance of the building but was not fire-resistant and acted as an accelerant that had almost the entire tower block in flames very quickly. The fire started on the second floor and quickly spread to the upper floors – it was, indeed, a towering inferno that left 79 people dead and many injured.

When arriving at the scene of a high-rise fire, firefighters will set up a base 2 floors below the actual fire. This base allows firefighters to have controlled entry points to ensure that each firefighter is accounted for and their breathing apparatus can be checked for time. It also gives them a better advantage of fighting the fire without having to climb many stairs. Minutes and energy used climbing stairs takes precious time away from being able to actually fight the fire.

Once a firefighter is able to go into the fire area, their main focus is rescuing people rather than firefighting. The Grenfell Tower fire was an extremely difficult situation. The fire spread rapidly from the 2nd floor and it is a 24-storey building. Firefighters were facing incredible conditions and face them, they did. Dany Cotton, London Fire Brigade commissioner, said that “They [the firefighters] were going through there time and time again battling through the floors looking for people.” He noted that London’s firefighters ‘didn’t waver”.

A recent high-rise fire in Dubai had different results than the Grenfell Tower. That high-rise had 79 storeys and the fire spread because of cladding but there were no fatalities because the building had smoke-free, fire-free safety zones. The Grenfell Tower not only was without that safety feature but also had only 1 set of stairs, which quickly filled with smoke for evacuation. The residents of Grenfell Tower had been advised, previously, to stay inside their flats in the event of a fire but that is only good advice if there is good fire suppression between floors.

A lengthy investigation will take place regarding the Grenfell Tower fire that lead to the loss of 79 lives and over 70 injured. In the meantime, it is best for all residents in high-rise towers to learn about the safety features and escape routes in their buildings. Fire-fighters can only do so much when battling a high-rise tower fire.