Smoke alarm system ‘dilapidated’ before fire ripped through CBD tower


Following the fire early on Monday morning, which ripped through five balconies in a matter of minutes, MFB investigators found combustible cladding on the building’s exterior likely fuelled the blaze.

It is believed to have been started by a discarded cigarette that ignited combustible material on the balcony.

The council issued an emergency order on Wednesday, which was written by municipal building surveyor Steven Baxas.

It detailed how the smoke detection and alarm system hadn’t been maintained to building standards and warned that within a period of 14 days the smoke alarms must be replaced in every apartment in the building.

Smoke detectors in the common area also have to be replaced.

Discarded cigarette butts found on the balcony where the blaze started.

Discarded cigarette butts found on the balcony where the blaze started. Credit:MFB

If this isn’t done, the council has the power to undertake the works themselves and recover costs from the relevant parties.

«In addition to undertaking the work, Council may instigate legal proceedings,» the order reads.

Mr Baxas said residents’ lives could be at risk.


«I am of the opinion that the emergency order is necessary because of a danger to life or property arising out of the condition of the building,» he said.

Residents have been warned they could be locked out of the block for two weeks or more while the works are completed.

A page communicating the latest updates from the owners corporation to residents has been set up on the council website.

The insurer has allowed a $2500 payment for emergency accommodation for each resident.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said most neighbours he had spoken to were extremely angry and frustrated.

«The residents are absolutely pissed off at the moment. People don’t have permanent accommodation, they go to one hotel and get a booking for one night, then have to move again and again. Some are moving twice in three days,» he said.

Firefighters inspect the damage from the blaze.

Firefighters inspect the damage from the blaze. Credit:Jason South

«No one is getting the communication about where they need to go or what they need to do … there’s no clear direction. It’s the uncertainty of not knowing what tomorrow will bring, which leads to frustration.»

The man, who has lived in the block for several years with his wife, said some residents were concerned knowing they had been living in a building with cladding which also had «dilapidated» fire alarms.

«I spoke to someone yesterday and they said to me they have to find a place to live in but they feel unsafe,» he said.

«The feeling is they don’t know where to go in Melbourne. They don’t have faith [in the building standards].»

A City of Melbourne spokeswoman said they could not comment on how long the smoke alarm system may have been non-compliant.

«The Owners Corporation are responsible for the maintenance of the smoke detection and alarm system,» she said.

«The history of the maintenance of the smoke detection and alarm system will be analysed as part of this investigation. It is not appropriate to comment until the investigation is complete.»

The Owners Corporation declined to comment.

Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.




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