Melbourne cladding fire apartment high-rise deemed 'moderate risk'
Residents were evacuated when the fire broke out in the early hours of Monday morning. (Twitter: Bekah Jayne)
The Melbourne CBD apartment complex that was the scene of a combustible cladding fire this week was deemed as a “moderate risk” in an an audit ordered by the Victorian Cladding Taskforce.
- The building was deemed a moderate risk because it wasn’t fully covered in the cladding
- Sixty other buildings at higher risk are being case-managed by the VBA
- Victoria will push for a national ban on the cladding at a building ministers’ council in Hobart
The blaze started on a 22nd-floor balcony of 200 Spencer Street on Monday and spread up the exterior of the building to the 27th floor early on Monday morning.
Firefighters said the fire was caused by a discarded cigarette on an apartment balcony, which then was fuelled by the cladding.
Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne said the Neo 200 apartments were assessed by the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) as part of a statewide audit investigating combustible cladding.
“It was indicated that because the building was not fully clad, it was of moderate risk,” he said.
Fifteen fire trucks, two ladder-platform trucks and 60 firefighters were required to extinguish the fire.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) chief officer Dan Stephens said crews believed the building was clad with similar materials to that on London’s Grenfell Tower, in which 72 people died in a fire in 2017.
Neo 200 residents are angry after being told they will be locked out of the building for at least two weeks, even if their properties were not damaged.
High-risk buildings being case managed
Mr Wynne said the audit, headed by the Victorian Cladding Taskforce, had identified 60 buildings that were deemed “higher risk”.
“We’ve audited 1,400 private buildings and indeed we’ve also audited 400 State Government-owned buildings,” he said.
“There are in the order of about 60 buildings that are of higher risk and we are case-managing all of those individually through the building regulator the VBA.”
Fire damage to a 26th-floor balcony at the Neo200 apartment building in Melbourne. (Supplied: MFB)
Mr Wynne said the VBA had been having “one-on-one” engagement with all of the body corporates identified in the audit with a view to making changes, including in some cases removing the cladding.
Mr Wynne said the audit of combustible cladding was a huge job but said the VBA had so far covered a “large proportion” of what was required.
“You have to look really right across [the state]. They’re in regional cities, they’re in the CBD, they’re in the suburbs as well,” he said.
“This non-conforming cladding product has been used very extensively for more than 20 years in the building industry.”
Mr Wynne said the audit would continue but added: “We think we’ve got on top of the scope of the problem.
“It doesn’t mean we’ve, by any means, got all of the buildings, but we do think that the audit has been very comprehensive and we have been able to isolate those buildings that really require the most acute attention.”
Push for nationwide ban
The Victorian Government said a national approach was needed to address the cladding issue and said it would push for that at today’s Building Ministers’ Forum in Hobart.
Mr Wynne said the Spencer Street fire was a reminder of the need to act quickly on the matter.
“I’ll be pushing for a nationwide ban on combustible cladding really to further protect Victorians from being exposed to unacceptable fire risk,” he said.
“The Federal Government have to step up to the plate, they are responsible for all products that come into this country across the border.
“Now is the time for us to come together because this is about community safety.”