Residents angry as Wembley flats evacuated after cladding fire

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) issued a massive emergency response on 29 January 2024 after receiving nine separate calls about a severe flat fire in Wembley, with initial reports confirming the presence of unsafe cladding.

In total, 125 firefighters and 20 fire appliances were dispatched to tackle the blaze, with LFB reporting that half of the external side of the building, all of the roof, and four external balconies were damaged by fire. The severity of the fire led to a full evacuation of the building, and residents had already begun evacuating in line with the building’s evacuation strategy before being assisted by firefighters upon arrival.

Crews from Wembley, Park Royal, Northolt, and surrounding fire stations utilised two 32-metre turntable ladders as water towers to help bring the fire under control. Video footage taken at the scene shows water being sprayed over the four-storey building to help extinguish the flames.

Five adjoining blocks were also evacuated as a precaution. All residents were accounted for following the evacuation and there were no reports of any injuries,” LFB said.

While an investigation into the cause of the fire is now underway, LFB states that “initial reports can confirm that cladding was involved in the blaze”.

As reported by The Independent, residents of the block of flats have been calling for a full investigation into the fire amidst fears of unsafe cladding, with one resident telling reporters that the building’s cladding had been “down to be replaced two years ago but nothing has been done”.

It’s scary and devastating to think that we still have cladding that everyone knew could be dangerous. This could have been another Grenfell; we are very angry and want a full investigation and answers. They had put in some fire measures inside the building to make it safer but what’s the point if the cladding is still in place?” the resident added.

It is understood that Octavia Housing, who is responsible for the building, had first been notified of the unsafe cladding three years ago but had been unable to progress with remediation work. In a letter sent to residents in October 2023, Octavia said that “no realistic agreement” could be reached with Vistry Group, the primary contractor for the remediation work.

A spokesperson later confirmed to The Standard: “The building has some external cladding in its construction, and we are working with the developer and our insurer to get this removed. There is a plan in place to address this which includes ongoing negotiations with the developer and our insurer as part of an arbitration process.”

Petworth Court has a Fire Risk Assessment which has been shared with the London Fire Brigade, who we have been working with since last August [2023] to manage the building.”

According to BBC News, a spokesperson for Vistry Group added that while it could not comment on “specific details”, it had been working with the building owner and all relevant parties as a “matter of urgency” and would “continue to do so to help ensure works are completed on site as necessary”.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) also shared its concerns about the continued presence of unsafe cladding, with the general secretary of the FBU, Matt Wrack stating: "Firefighters have once again been called to cladding fire which could have resulted in tragedy.

The Fire Brigades Union warned of the risks of flammable cladding many years before the terrible Grenfell Tower fire. Decades of deregulation have created unnecessary risks to residents and firefighters, and put homes and lives at risk.

Government ministers and building companies have been criminally complacent. We will continue to demand justice for the victims of this situation, and urgent action to ensure that buildings are safe.”


(Photograph by the London Fire Brigade)