Adair Lewis focuses here on fires in flats or maisonettes of ten or more storeys, in light of the fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017

Flats and maisonettes risk review


OLLOWING A number of requests, the large loss analysis this month looks at fires in flats and maisonettes of ten or more

storeys, a topic that was last visited some five years ago. Much has happened since that time, and without wishing to detract from the horror and shock of the dreadful fire in Grenfell Tower, it might be time to analyse fires in high rise flats in some detail, and see how exceptional this tragedy was.

As is the case with all events of such a magnitude, care will have to be taken in the future not to allow this single event to distort future statistics. In the nine years from January 2009 until December 2017, there were just 12 major fires recorded in blocks of flats and maisonettes in single occupancy that were ten or more storeys high. This number does not include the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, as there appears to have been no submission for it to the database. The 12 fires recorded represent just 1.2% of

all large loss fires in dwellings. No figures are provided for the number of fatalities and injuries resulting from the incidents. The first notable fact is that 100% of the fires have been recorded as originating accidentally. This compares with an average of 61% of large loss fires in dwellings as a whole. This lack of deliberate fire raising is quite

remarkable, and should be reassuring for occupiers of these buildings. When looking at the time of day at which the events occurred, mornings are free from

52 FEBRUARY 2019

fires, with most occurring in the afternoons and evenings when they may perhaps reflect accidents while cooking, or times when occupants are relaxing. It is once again a problem that in the case of half of the fires, the time of origin was not recorded. This has been emphasised in past articles, and no apology is made for yet another appeal that those responsible for completing and submitting the database information should include the approximate time of the incident. There was just one fire several years ago

where the fire and rescue service experienced difficulties in accessing the property. This was probably a one off, and it is definitely reassuring to record that there has been no incidence recorded on the database to date of firefighters experiencing inadequate water when tackling fires at these properties. Problems of access and inadequate water, however, still feature prominently with regards to major fires in other forms of dwellings. The average loss in a fire in high rise blocks of flats is £436,951 – nearly a third higher than in the case of a major fire in dwellings as a whole (£333,202). It is somewhat surprising that the total cost of the large loss fires in blocks of ten or more storeys that are on record is only a little over £5m, a sum that might be somewhat less than expected. Looking at the insurance components, this loss is almost entirely accounted for by the building itself, with other issues only being represented by small fractions of the total. It is

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