Italian firefighters tackled hot spots on August 30 in a 20-story apartment building in Milan that was destroyed by fire. Officials reported there were no indications that anyone remained inside, as questions arose about the cladding that witnesses said rapidly fueled the fire.
The rapid burning fire was reminiscent of the deadly fire that swept through Grenfell Tower in London in 2017, killing 72 people. At Grenfell Tower, officials blamed the cladding on the outside of the building for the speed at which fire engulfed the building. Observers and officials noted similar issues in the Milan fire.
“I have never seen a situation like this,” Firefighting Official Giuliano Santagata told the Associated Press. “Just look at the facade and you see that everything is completely burned, and therefore we presume that it was made of flammable material."
Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said it was “unacceptable” that a building just over a decade old showed itself to be so vulnerable.
“What seems already clear from the start is that the external cladding of the building went up in flames far too quickly, in a dynamic that recalls the Grenfell Tower in London,” Sala told the AP.
Firefighters' speedy response and door-to-door searches as well as to building codes that included firewalls and an ample stairwell prevented mass injuries.
The fire started on the 15th floor of the nearly 200-foot-tall building
When firefighters arrived, the blaze was mostly contained to one area, which allowed them to evacuate the building. But it quickly spread up and down the cladding, according to witnesses.
“The cause of the fires still needs to be determined, but it seems that the rapid spread of the flames was due to the thermal covering of the building," said Carlo Sibia, an Interior Ministry official in Rome.
Firefighters broke through doors apartment by apartment in the search for anyone left inside and telephoned residents.
Prosecutors at the scene Monday, and national arson investigators were also dispatched. Prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano said it was too early to speculate about the cause but confirmed the blaze started on the 15th floor.
In the Grenfell Tower fire, flammable cladding and lax fire safety standards were blamed for the deadly June 2017 blaze. The Grenfell tragedy prompted inquiries into high-rise building materials.