THE COMPANY that made the Grenfell Tower cladding was warned of the risks of a building fire that would kill ‘60 to 70’ people a decade before the tragedy.
The chilling prediction of the Grenfell fire came at a presentation attended by a marketing manager from Arconic.
Gerard Sontag sent an internal memo suggesting the company stop selling the flammable version of its product, the public inquiry heard.
However they continued to sell their product, which was then installed on the Grenfell Tower.
When the fire broke out on June 14, 2017 a combination of Arconic’s flammable cladding, and Kingspan’s flammable insulation, along with badly fitted windows and fire breaks, turned the building into a chimney doused in the equivalent of petrol, where the flames rapidly spread up the side of the building.
As a result 72 men, women and children lost their lives.
The public inquiry is hearing evidence relating to three Arconic employees who have refused to give evidence, citing a law in France where they live.
Reading from internal company documents obtained by investigators, the senior inquiry counsel, Richard Millett QC, said that the company’s marketing manager had been ‘very impressed’ by a presentation on fire safety which he attended in 2007.
A consultant, Fred-Roderich Pohl, set out the risks of the plastic used to make aluminium composite cladding (ACM), which he said had the same ‘fuel power’ as a 19,000-litre truck of oil. The plastic, polyethylene or PE, is highly flammable.
Pohl showed pictures of a fire in Doha, Qatar, which developed quickly in the cladding system.
In his memo about the presentation, Sontag said Pohl warned: ‘What will happen if only one building made out of PE is on fire and kills 60 to 70 persons.’
It was a chilling prediction of the exact circumstances of the Grenfell Tower fire.
In his memo, Sontag also asked colleagues what the responsibility of the cladding supplier would be in that situation.
This is now a key question for the inquiry and the police, who are investigating Arconic’s sales of flammable cladding.
Arconic now says that it ‘made the raw materials for cladding systems’ and ‘could not be held responsible for the ways in which they were used’.
Sontag’s response to the 2007 presentation was to recommend the company stop selling the PE version of the cladding in favour of a fire-retardant (FR) type.