A fire that killed at least 79 people at a west London high rise block started in a Hotpoint fridge freezer, and the outside cladding engulfed by the blaze has since been shown to fail all preliminary safety tests, the Met police said on Friday (23 June).
Detective Superintendent Fiona McCormack confirmed police were considering manslaughter charges over the disaster at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.
WHITE GOODS ALERT: Hotpoint FF175BP (pictured above) caused fatal fire at Grenfell Tower
She said the Hotpoint model, FF175BP, a white fridge-freezer, involved was not subject to recall and the manufacturer was conducting further tests.
“We now have expert evidence that the fire was not started deliberately,” McCormack told reporters in London.
Hotpoint has stopped short of a product recall publishing an alert on its website informing customers of the safety concerns. It stated: “We have been made aware of a possible incident involving a Hotpoint branded Fridge Freezer, manufactured between March 2006 and July 2009, model numbers FF175BP (white) and FF175BG (graphite).
“To confirm if your appliance is affected, please check your model and serial number, usually located on a sticker behind the salad container, Or look for the model data label below on your appliance.”
Whirlpool Corp, the world’s largest maker of home appliances, owns the Hotpoint brand in the Europe and Asia Pacific regions. In the United States, the brand now belongs to Haier, following the Chinese group’s purchase of General Electric’s appliance business.
“We are working with the authorities to obtain access to the appliance so that we can assist with the ongoing investigations,” Whirpool said in a statement. “Words cannot express our sorrow at this terrible tragedy.”
Police said both the insulation and tiles used in cladding at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block failed all post-fire safety tests.
“Preliminary tests show the insulation samples collected from Grenfell tower combusted soon after the test started,” McCormack said.
Such were their concerns after the tests that the information was immediately shared with government to disseminate more widely.
“Given the deaths of so many people we are considering manslaughter as well as criminal offences and breaches of legislation and regulations,” McCormack said.
The blaze, Britain’s worst since World War Two, has heaped pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, already fighting for her political survival after her party lost its parliamentary majority in a snap election on June 8.
When speaking about the 79 people dead or missing, presumed dead, McCormack said: “I fear that there are more.” The word on the street amongst locals living in the vicinity of the tragedy is that there are ‘hundreds’ of fatalities with many hinting strongly at a cover-up. The government have offered an official amnesty to reassure undocumented migrants believed to number amongst the fatalities and victims.
Whirlpool, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of household appliances has once again been implicated in a devastating domestic blaze. In August 2016, an Indesit tumble dryer manufactured by Whirlpool was the cause of a blaze at Bush Court in Shepherd’s Bush, west London. It took 120 firefighters to bring the fire that destroyed part of the 18-storey block under control.
A London Fire Brigade’s probe concluded that “all the physical evidence in the flat clearly indicated that the fire had started in the tumble dryer”.
It also found “the physical evidence corroborated witness accounts that the fire had started in the dryer”, as well as other evidence that “showed an engineer had been due to visit the property to carry out modifications”.
Following the completion of the final investigation report, and as part of the brigade’s Total Recalls campaign, which aims to make white goods safer, fire chiefs have renewed their call for the dryer’s parent company Whirlpool to change its advice to consumers.
Whirlpool still maintains that people may continue to use the affected dryers while they are waiting for them to be modified, so long as they are not left unattended.
Safety advice disagreement
The brigade strongly disagreed with Whirlpool’s advice to customers and is urging anyone with one of the models in question to immediately unplug the machine and stop using it.
London Fire Brigade’s Director of Operations Dave Brown said: “This fire has highlighted just how dangerous faulty white goods can be.
“Disappointingly though, Whirlpool have still not changed their advice to consumers.
“Following the conclusion of our investigation we are now appealing once again for them to change their advice and bring it into line with our own.
“Thankfully there were no serious injuries in the Shepherd’s Bush fire but we may not be so lucky if it happens again.
“It was vital that we conducted such a robust and systematic investigation to get a clear picture of what happened.
“Following an exhaustive examination of the scene and the remains of the appliance by our specialist fire investigators we remain satisfied the cause was the faulty dryer.”
Fire investigators, specialist scientific advisers and a fire investigation dog were all used to determine exactly where the fire started and to ensure all other possible causes were eliminated.