Downtown Dubai, in 2018. Wikipedia Commons License. Photo by Iwona Rege.
08 Nov 2022

High rise fires in Dubai and New York: questions arise about dangerous cladding

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A fire started on Monday November 7 in a 35 storey building in Dubai. The fire development in the building is now raising concerns around dangerous cladding, similar as in Grenfell Tower in the UK. 38 people were hurt in a high rise fire in New York on November 5.   

According to an ABC News article, and several other international media, the fire broke out in downtown Dubai near the world's tallest building. The fire was seen racing up the side of the structure in the same way seen in other blazes fueled by flammable siding material, according to the article.  

A resident at the 8 Boulevard Walk told The Associated Press that the high-rise has cladding that officials planned to replace after a similar fire affected an iconic tower on New Year's Eve in 2015. However, that cladding was not replaced across the entire building, said the resident, who asked not to be named. 

 "A Dubai Civil Defense spokesperson confirmed that Dubai high-rises comply with strict structural and fire safety standards that conform to international codes and regulations,” a statement from the Dubai Media Office said, without naming the official.

 

Photo credit: (Cover photo above)  A popular place in Dubai -Downtown Dubai, previously known as Downtown Burj Dubai, is a large-scale, mixed-use complex under development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It is the home of some of the city's largest landmarks including Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall,[2] and Dubai Fountain. 25 January 2018. Wikipedia Commons License. Photo by Iwona Rege

 

On November 5, the New York Post wrote about a high rise fire in New York City which injured 38 people, and seriously injured 2. It is unclear how many residents were affected by the fire in total. 

The three-alarm fire started in an apartment on the 20th floor, around 10:25 a.m. EST, at 429 East 52nd St., the FDNY said. 

According to the New York Post, a dramatic video shows a woman hanging outside of an apartment window as smoke billowed out and firefighters surrounded her: 

"She was caught on a window guard and had to be freed by the four firefighters involved in the rescue....One firefighter, who was on a rope secured inside the apartment directly above, wrapped his limbs around the woman before his colleagues slowly lowered them to the apartment below, where another firefighter pulled her inside".

The FDNY said it used the rope rescue as a “last resort.” 

“This is an extremely rare type of rescue. We don’t do this often,” said Darren Harsch, one of the four firefighters involved in the rope rescue. 

“I would have died without them,” the rescued woman said from a hospital bed on Sunday, according to a report in the Daily News.

FDNY posted an account of the rescue on Instagram. Here is part of that account: 

“Our first units were confronted with heavy fire at the front door, blocking the occupants only means of egress. This required a herculean team effort from our members. In total we put four of our members on a lifesaving rope. We train on that; we train on all of our procedures often. FDNY procedures fundamentally value the team effort, individuals execute that. That is what we saw inside the fire building, outside the fire building with members being lowered. We started with a member from Ladder 16 who was lowered down, he realized the victim hanging out the window was caught on the child gate. That rope system was reset and another Firefighter was lowered to the victim and held onto the victim. A member from #Rescue1 came down with a Halligan and was able to get the window gate freed, this allowed the whole weight of the victim to be on the Firefighter from #Ladder16. He was then lowered by the team above to the floor below with the victim. A fourth member then went on rope from #Ladder2 and was lowered to the floor below, at that point the inside team was able to remove the additional victims from inside the apartment.”

Firefighter Artur Podgorski, with Ladder 16, said: “My role was to go under the victim, take her weight, hold her weight, so the member above me could free her arm,” said Podgorski. “When moments like this happen, there’s no room for mistakes. You have to work together.”

According to an article in FireRescue.com,  FDNY firefighters regularly train to perform this kind of rescue but do not need to perform the maneuver very often.

“Since 1980, we have more than 50 documented successful life-saving evolutions done in the NYC Fire Department,” said FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Frank Leeb.

According to the Associated Press, the fire started with a lithium-ion battery problem.  

 

 

The fire at Turtle Bay in New York. Photo by resident.