The London Fire Brigade has found that the tower block blaze in Shepherd’s Bush on August 19 was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble-dryer.
Following a six-week investigation, and as part of its Total Recalls campaign, the LFB has reaffirmed its calls to Whirlpool for it to change its advice on faulty white goods.
The London Fire Brigade (LFB) concluded from evidence that the tumble-dryer, which was due to be modified by an engineer just days after the blaze occurred, had caused the extensive fire damage to the block of flats. It took 120 firefighters to get the blaze under control.
In its report, the LFB stated that “all the physical evidence in the flat clearly indicated that the fire had started in the tumble-dryer”, and “the physical evidence corroborated witness accounts that the fire had started in the dryer”.
Because of the ‘significant’ damage and the lack of a fire-resistant markings the tumble-dryer was not identifiable. This meant that the investigation team had to confirm the tumble-dryer was a model that was subject to the safety notice.
After acquiring a second-hand Indesit dryer, the team set about matching the unique characteristics of the metal casing to the fire-damaged one. It found nearly 20 individual features that matched up, and combined with evidence of communications with Whirlpool about the machine, was satisfied that it was one of the Indesit models subject to the safety notice.
The LFB said in its report that “the drum spindle and aperture were a definite ellipse, suggesting that movement of the drum was possible” as it was “offset from its rotational axis”, which “may well have allowed lint to access the heating element”.
This, it said, was evidence of the fault that could be expected to be found on the affected dryers.
Despite calls to change its advice on faulty models, Whirlpool still maintains that people may continue to use the affected dryers while waiting for them to be modified, so long as they are not left unattended.
However, the brigade ‘strongly’ disagrees and has urged anyone with an affected model to immediately unplug the machine and stop using it.
London Fire Brigade’s director of operations Dave Brown said: “This fire has highlighted just how dangerous faulty white goods can be. Disappointingly, though, Whirlpool has still not changed its advice to consumers. Following the conclusion of our investigation, we are now appealing once again for it to change its advice and bring it into line with our own. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries in the Shepherd’s Bush fire, but we may not be so lucky if it happens again.
“It was vital that we conducted such a robust and systematic investigation to get a clear picture of what happened. Following an exhaustive examination of the scene and the remains of the appliance by our specialist fire investigators, we remain satisfied the cause was the faulty dryer.”
When ERT contacted Whirlpool for comment, a spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the incident in Shepherd’s Bush, London, in August 2016. While we understand that London Fire Brigade has concluded its investigation into the incident, Whirlpool’s independent forensic investigations are still ongoing and in the circumstances, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
“The safety of consumers is our number one priority and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the tumble-dryer modification programme is carried out in a safe and timely manner. We continue to cooperate fully with the relevant regulatory authority as progress of the campaign is regularly monitored and reviewed.
“The success of the programme depends on as many customers as possible registering with us for a modification. Therefore, we urge everyone who owns an Indesit, Hotpoint or Creda dryer manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015 to check if their dryer is affected and then register for a free modification if it is. They can do this using the model checker on two bespoke websites we have created, https://safety.hotpoint.eu/ and https://safety.indesit.eu/, or our dedicated freephone helpline on 0800 151 0905 for the UK or 1800 804320 for Ireland.”