Extensive balcony damage in tower fire

Around 400 people were evacuated from a 21-storey high-rise complex in La Trobe St in Melbourne’s Docklands after the fire alarm was raised around 2.30am on Tuesday 25th November.

Flames rapidly spread from a second floor balcony through the balconies of at least 15 floors. Apart from the speed of the vertical inferno, the extent of the damage to balconies is of major concern.

The damage bill is expected to top $5 million and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade says equipment stored behind an air conditioning compressor unit caused it to overheat, sparking the fire. One apartment on each level was fire damaged, while others sustained significant smoke and water damage, according to an MFB spokesman.

“The problem was the fire spread vertically up the external balconies and caused some damage to each of the floors above which operated the sprinkler system,” he said.

He said apart from some broken windows the building appeared structurally sound, though the building has not yet been declared safe.

Fire investigators will assess whether the construction the complex contributed to the spread of the fire. The investigation will also focus on why fire alarms did not go off in certain levels of the 21-storey building to alert residents about to the blaze.

MFB confirmed the Docklands fire never appeared on the state government’s emergency information incidents website due to a technical glitch.

Photo: Wayne Taylor

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