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22nd November 2019

Investigations open into Bolton hall fires as community rallies around students

Personal belongings and university resources were lost in the fire, with the building’s cladding also under scrutiny
Investigations open into Bolton hall fires as community rallies around students

An official investigation has been opened into the fire at the Cube accommodation block in Bolton on the 15th November.

The fire was reported to spread ‘very quickly’, with concerns being raised over the cladding used after videos captured from the night showed parts of the cladding falling to the ground after catching fire.

The cladding, made out of High Pressure Laminate (HPL) was ruled as safe when fitted professionally and with non-combustible insulation behind it, by the government back in July. A central part of the ongoing investigation will be if the HPL was in fact fitted correctly with the insulation.

The investigation will also look into the materials that make up the balconies, which potentially also contributed to the quick spread of the fire. The balconies, which are made up of composite materials which are designed to look like wood, are on every floor of the building excluding the ground floor.

The accommodation has two parts of the building. One part  is considered a high rise, but the part of the building where the fire happened is not considered a high rise flat, which therefore means it subject to different standards of safety.

In a statement GMFRS said: “It was established that the building did not have ACM cladding. There are two buildings in The Cube, Phase 1 is classified as a high rise building and Phase 2 (the building involved in the fire) is recorded as being under 18 metres and therefore not classified as a high rise building.

“GMFRS subsequently requested the fire risk assessment be reviewed and the materials used in the external wall system identified and assessed.

“Following the fire our investigation will consider the materials used within the external wall construction and what if any role these materials played in the development and spread of fire. This assessment was shared with GMFRS and in 2018, subsequent work was undertaken to both buildings by the building owners

“As The Cube is student accommodation, it is fitted with a fire alarm system and operates a simultaneous evacuation strategy.

“This investigation will be complex and take some time. GMFRS will continue to work with the building owners to determine when it will be safe for parts of the building to be reoccupied and in the interim when it will be possible for personal belongings to be collected.”

There have also been rapid responses to organise relief and support for students caught up in the blaze. The Manchester disaster relief fund has set up a just giving relief page to help all those affected by the fire. The block housed 221 people, 220 of which were students with a mix of both UK and international students.

The fund so far has raised 15% of their £100,000 target (figures correct at time of writing). In a statement, they said: “The primary purpose of the Greater Manchester Disaster Relief Fund is to award funds for the relief of financial need or disability as a result of a disaster”.

Those affected by the fire and applicable for financial support can apply through an online application.

Other support networks have also been set up in response to the disaster – ‘Books for Bolton’ was also set up shortly after the fire. The platform aims to connect people with second hand text books that could donate to those that have lost their belongings in the fire. Circuit Laundry has also set up a crowd funding page aiming to raise £10,000 for the displaced vulnerable students.

A number of students living in the flats were special effects make up students and through the fire had lost a large amount of the materials needed to complete their course. Influencers have taken to Instagram to donate surplus make up to those in need of such resources.

The University of Bolton was also praised through their response to fire, providing clothes and food and sending out appeals on social media letting people known what donations are needed.

Leah Mckee-Hearne a student who lived in the block said in a BBC interview that, “the University has just been amazing… we are shocked by the amount of support we are getting.”

She also explained that her and Courtney Peaker, a friend present in the interview, had low hopes for what was going to be recovered in the fire: “It was just all the little moments, it’s the memories and stuff, that was our whole life in that room.”

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