Spencer St Building Fire Contained The Same Combustible Cladding As London's Grenfell Tower

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A high-rise Melbourne apartment building fire that forced an early morning evacuation, contains the same combustible cladding on London's Grenfell Tower, authorities say.

Fire crews arrived about 5.45am to find flames rising up the outside of the 40-storey city tower, MFB assistant chief fire officer Trent Curtain told 3AW.

The fire started on the side of the building on the 22nd floor and moved upwards before spreading through to the 27th floor.

The response was escalated when the building was identified as having combustive cladding.

More than 80 firefighter brought the blaze under control in just over an hour and the cause is still being determined.

Chief officer Dan Stephens told reporters the cladding is believed to be the same as that on the Grenfell Tower which was destroyed by a devastating fire in June 2017 that killed 72 people.

"My understanding is that the building is cladded with ACM, aluminium composite material, so the sort of cladding that was on the Grenfell Tower," he said.

The state government set up an auditing system to identify and remove flammable cladding after the Docklands Lacrosse tower fire in 2014, but Premier Daniel Andrews admitted it was a slow process.

Former premier Ted Baillieu, who co-chairs the Victorian cladding taskforce, said the tower in question received building notices last July and October, identifying a problem with the cladding.

"(It was) effectively a show cause notice why the cladding shouldn't be removed, which is an invitation to the owners corporation to either take remedial action or remove the cladding," Mr Baillieu told media. 

"The risk ratings are actually made by the expert panels and as I understand, it hasn't been to panel yet but it received a moderate rating from its first assessment.

"It may yet may yet be elevated in terms of risk, but we don't actually know the details of the fire."

Premier Daniel Andrews admits more needs to be done on the cladding issue.

"These are issues we take very seriously, we've implemented a range of reforms. We know there's more to be done here, there's no question about that," Mr Andrews said.

The last tweet on the building's Twitter account @Neo200SpencerSt in June 2017 said it complied with building standards. "While most of the building is not clad at all, where any cladding is used it is compliant with VBA standards," it said.

Emergency crews were alerted to the blaze after an automatic fire alarm went off, followed by a number of triple zero callers reporting smoke and fire from the building.

Fire safety inspectors are working with the council municipal building surveyor and will hand over the site when it's deemed safe.

A relief centre has been set up at Melbourne Town Hall for affected residents and south-bound lanes

Lanes on Spencer Street remain closed until further notice.

A man was treated for smoke inhalation but no injuries were reported.

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4 February 2019

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