At the inquiry into the June 2017 fire, Dr John Duncan Glover stated that the fire was ‘most likely started by overheated wiring’ within a fridge freezer.
Earlier this year, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed once more, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans for the tower were not able to be found in the lobby of the building. It then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.
In September, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, before London Fire Brigade (LFB) commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite an LFB presentation created only a year before the fire. Recently, the inquiry heard two different experts note that flames spread in ‘just over 10 minutes’ to the outside of the tower, and that cladding issues ‘have been known for decades’.
Earlier this week, the inquiry heard that the architectural ‘crown’ of cladding designed to make the tower ‘look nice’ was ‘instrumental’ in the fire’s spread around the tower. Evening Standard has now reported on Dr Glover’s evidence, which saw him conclude that the fire ‘probably began’ in the Hotpoint FF175BP fridge in the kitchen of flat 16. The inquiry was shown an image of the small write connector, which is thought to have ‘overheated’ before starting the fire.
Evidence was recovered by investigators from a small relay compressor compartment at the bottom rear of the appliance, while three inches of damaged wire found in one of the flat’s bedrooms about 27 days after the fire ‘probably came from the compressor relay compartment’. Dr Glover, an electrical fire expert, stated that the ‘poor crimp connection’ did not keep the wires tightly gripped as it should have, and spaces seen in CT scan images supported that it had not been ‘properly crimped’.
He added: ‘I found voids in all 80 cross-sections indicating the crimp was not nice and tight. The overheating connector in my opinion was the first event that started burning the insulation on the wires that led to a short circuit. The overheating of the crimp starts the fire. It overheats, it glows, it ignites.’
Consumers were told earlier in 2018 that they can still use that model of fridge freezer, after it was assessed as posing a ‘low risk’ following an independent investigation. Dr Glover noted that the metallic backing required for the appliances in the USA contrasted with the UK and Europe allowance of plastic back casing, and he added: ‘That metallic backing would help to contain an internal fire, keep it inside the refrigerator, for a long time.
‘Instead of the plastic casing on the rear, which is combustible, contributing to the fire, you have a steel casing which is not.’