Fire inspections promised at Sheffield high-rises in wake of Grenfell Tower tragedy

Firefighters at the scene of a recent arson attack at a Sheffield tower block (Tim Ansell)
Firefighters at the scene of a recent arson attack at a Sheffield tower block (Tim Ansell)
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New fire safety checks have been promised at council tower blocks across Sheffield in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Officers from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue are due to begin the additional inspections, which the council described as 'purely precautionary', from Monday (June 19).

Sheffield Council said the fire brigade already assesses the buildings on a regular basis and daily checks are carried out by housing staff.

The new safety checks were announced today (Friday, June 16) as the official death toll from the Grenfell Tower disaster in Kensington rose to 30, with many more believed to have died in the inferno.

There has been speculation that plastic-filled cladding added to the tower's exterior may have accelerated the spread of the fire, which ripped rapidly through the council building.

Sheffield Council has reassured occupants of the city's 24 tower blocks that the cladding used on those properties is designed to reduce the risk of fire.

Councillor Jayne Dunn, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety at Sheffield Council, said: "We know people might be worried if they live in a tower block and, while we don't yet know why this terrible fire happened, I think it would reassure residents to know that the fire service will be conducting a risk assessment of all our tower blocks.

"This is purely precautionary. I also want to reassure people that the type of cladding used at Grenfell Tower, which is currently the source of such speculation, is categorially not used in any properties in Sheffield. All of our cladding is fire proof.

"We have also contacted tenants to remind them of our fire safety advice. Although we don’t yet know the cause of this tragic fire, we want to do all we can to ensure that our tower blocks here in Sheffield are safe.

"Once we know the reasons for disaster, if we need to change any arrangements to keep tenants safe then we will."

Sheffield Council said 21 of its 24 tower blocks have metal cladding, which it said is fire proof as the insulation consists of mineral and rock wool. It said there are fire breaks at the floor and party walls, creating what it described as a 'fire-proof box' around each flat to prevent flames spreading.

It said the other three blocks are brickwork-clad and have a separate metal fire barrier installed.

A former council cabinet member earlier this week raised concerns about fire safety in Sheffield's high-rise flats.

Peter McLoughlin, ex-cabinet member for housing on Sheffield Council, complained about broken gates which are supposed to ensure there is space for emergency services to park in the event of a disaster. He also demanded reassurances the cladding used on the city's council flats was not the same as that at Grenfell Tower.

Responding to his comments, the council said 'significant investment' had taken place at all 24 blocks since the 1990s, with millions of pounds spent on measures to minimise the fire risk.