British police have confirmed that last week’s tragic fire at Greenfell Tower in London was sparked by a faulty HotPoint FF175BP refrigerator-freezer manufactured by Indesit, now owned by Whirlpool.
The company has also issued warnings for HotPoint fridge-freezer model number FF175BG (Graphite).
The HotPoint refrigerators have not yet been recalled. Whirlpool estimates that 64,000 units were sold from 2006 to 2009. The model was discontinued in 2009, several years before Whirlpool took over.
Investigators believe the fire started at around 1 a.m. on June 14 on the fourth floor of Greenfeld Tower. The London Fire Brigade dispatched nearly 200 firefighters, at least 40 engines, and 20 ambulance crews as flames engulfed the high-rise in West London.
At least 79 people are now presumed dead, although only 9 have been formally identified. Another 74 people were injured in the inferno.
Investigators have also determined how the fire spread so quickly. Greenfeld Tower was recently renovated with new Reynobond PE exterior siding made by the U.S. company Arconic Inc. of Alcoa, Tennessee.
The fire-resistant panels had an aluminum exterior but were plastic (polyethylene) on the inside, which can catch on fire at high temperatures and accelerate fires. They were about $2 cheaper than panels with a metallic honeycomb interior that does not burn as easily.
On June 26, Arconic announced that it has stopped selling Reynobond PE exterior panels that were used on Greenfeld Tower:
We believe this is the right decision because of the inconsistency of building codes across the world and issues that have arisen in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy regarding code compliance of cladding systems in the context of buildings’ overall designs.”
In the U.S., regulations have limited the popularity of Reynobond PE on high-rises because combustible materials are banned in buildings above a certain height. Arconic siding is widely-used in London, where regulations are less strict and 75 buildings have now failed government safety tests for combustible siding — every test so far.