A TOWER block at which a rooftop blaze broke out had no smoke alarms on its top-level and questions were raised about its cladding.

More than 100 calls were made to Oxfordshire fire and rescue service after a rooftop fire billowing black smoke broke out at around 7pm on Sunday, on the roof of Hockmore tower, off Pound Way in Cowley.

Garden furniture had caught alight outside one of the two rooftop flats but was promptly extinguished by firefighter jets when they arrived on the scene at 7.15pm.

READ MORE: As it happened: Fire at Cowley tower block

The cladding on Hockmore Tower was identified as unsafe in 2019 after Government guidance was updated in the wake of the Grenfell fire catastrophe in West London that claimed 72 lives in 2017.

It is not the first incident involving a fire that has happened at the tower.

More than 40 firefighters tackled a blaze on the fifth floor of the building in 2015.

READ MORE: Hundreds of calls made to fire service about billowing smoke from rooftop fire

The fire service deemed the eight-floor Hockmore tower block safe to live in whilst efforts to remove the cladding took place, due to the sprinkler system and other measures, but where the fire took place on the roof there was no smoke alarm system. 

The council has confirmed that dangerous cladding has been removed and replaced and that happened before the fire took place. 

LATEST UPDATE- Council confirms cladding was removed 

Councillor Linda Smith, cabinet member for housing said: “The work needed to complete recladding at Hockmore Tower proved to be more extensive than originally thought.

"We expect minor snagging and Building Control approval to be completed next month. Sunday night’s fire occurred in the garden area of the roof of the block, and there are no smoke alarms in this area.

"There was no internal damage which would have triggered the smoke alarm system.”

The cladding was not originally identified as unsafe as it didn’t contain Aluminium Composite Material – the type of rain screen used at Grenfell Tower.
However, in 2019 it emerged that a cladding system featuring HPL rain screen and combustible insulation had failed a fire safety test carried out by a private company.
The Government, which sets building regulations, later confirmed that the owners of tower blocks needed to remove this type of cladding too.

READ MORE: Oxford towerblock cladding will be replaced by November 

Mike Rowley, the cabinet member for affordable housing, said at the time measures to remove the cladding were being started in 2020: "From the outset we listened to the advice of the fire service and went above and beyond the government's rules, installing sprinklers in every flat, new fire detectors and new fire doors."

He said the council was "committed to improving our existing homes so that families can feel safe and secure to live and build their lives in Oxford".

Read more from this author

This story was written by Shosha Adie

She joined the team in 2022 as a digital reporter.   

To get in touch with her email: Shosha.Adie@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter: @ShoshaAdie

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