A disposed cigarette butt has been blamed as the cause of the fire at Tamweel Tower in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers development last month, which gutted the building leaving hundreds homeless.
Dubai Police has issued an official report in which they say a disposed cigarette butt was the most likely cause of the fire.
It is believed the cigarette ignited a pile of rubbish that had been left outside the 34-storey building by contractors who had been working inside.
Immediate reaction to the fire, which claimed no lives but forced all of the building’s residents to flee their homes, was that it had started near the very top of the building, due to the large flames on the roof.
However the forensic laboratory report says once the cigarette had ignited the waste material, the fire spread up the sides of the building through its highly-flammable aluminium and fibreglass cladding, before reaching the roof.
Witnesses said from there the flames lit debris and large pieces of cladding which fell to the street below, damaging cars and igniting futher fires on lower balconies.
The statement released on Tuesday said: “A pile of waste materials that include a piece of wood and papers left in the building caught fire and the flames extended quickly to other floors in the building. We are still investigating how and why and who caused the fire.”
The report added the police “are investigating if the fire is a criminal action or just an accident”.
Following the report’s findings, some residents expressed their surprise at the cause and where the fire is believed to have started.
Jim Bishop, a resident on the 12th floor of the tower, said: “I can’t believe that it started in the bottom floor. We believe it came from the top. The fire on the ground came from the top part of the building from the [flaming debris].”
Bassem Fakhry, another resident, said: “I find the cigarette butt theory quite surprising. It to me is just an unlikely occurrence because a cigarette butt causing fire is a slow process so it’s a bit surprising. But at this time, whether it’s caused by a cigarette butt or an electric fault, the more important issue is the spread of the fire and the inability to control it because of the cladding.”
Both residents were speaking to Gulf News.
Following the fire, Gulf Business reported how residents were forced to sign a waiver if they wanted to collect their belongings from above the 20th floor, suggesting the building was structurally unsafe above a certain height.
At the time residents had been told they would be given accommodation at the Gloria Hotel in Internet City for one month after initial fears they would be housed in the JLT area for only two days.
However, those who were lucky enough to be allocated space would need to pay for their room and claim the cost back.
Speaking after the release of the report, a spokesperson for Tamweel, an Isalmic finance provider, said: “Tamweel is yet to receive the official report from Dubai Civil Defence into the cause of the recent fire at Tamweel Tower, and so is unable to comment at this time.
“Our priority remains the wellbeing of owners and residents and we continue to strongly support the relief efforts of the Building’s Owners Association during this difficult period.”
One of the main talking points following the fire was the building’s cladding, which eye-witnesses claim accelerated the fire due to its highly-flammable material.
There have been concerns that the same cladding is used extensively across many high-rise towers in Dubai, with some estimates suggesting 70 per cent of the UAE’s buildings are clad in the same material.
However following the fire, changes will be made to the Fire Safety Code in the UAE, ensuring that any new buildings will be constructed with fireproof cladding materials.