Any number of causes and contributing factors may have led to the the tragedy unfolding as quickly as it did.
Several eyewitnesses describe seeing the side of the Grenfell Tower rapidly burning, and told of how it took a matter of minutes for the flames to reach the top of the building. This has led to speculation from onlookers and fire safety experts that the particular kind of cladding that was used played a role in speeding up the spread of the fire.
One resident said he saw the cladding – panels attached to the outside walls to provide rain protection and insulation as part of a recent refurbishment – “going up like a match.”
The building was re-clad in late 2015, at a cost of £2.6 million, but it has emerged that the the type of rainscreen cladding used – so-called aluminium compound material (ACM), with a plastic core – was less fire-resistant than other similar varieties of rainscreen that have a mineral core.
George Clarke, an architect and broadcaster who saw the fire in progress, told BBC2’s Newsnight on Wednesday: “I don’t care what anyone says, there’s no way that that fire should spread that quickly on a newly refurbished building.
“The cladding on the outside and the insulation was just peeling off like you’d peel a banana. It was burning – it was fully on fire. There’s a new cladding system on the outside, and it’s like a new skin and there’s an air gap and insulation behind that and to me it just looked like that was a fantastic chimney for the fire to rage round.”
The inquiry may look at other tower fires around the world in which the same kind cladding was present.
And while there’s currently no evidence that the materials used on Grenfell weren’t legal and in keeping with both European and UK building regulations, there are several variations in how cladding is installed that can have a bearing in the event of a fire.