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    "Combustibility of cladding material" central issue in Melbourne apartment fire: VBA report

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    The Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is continuing its investigation into the fire at Lacrosse Apartments in Melbourne’s Docklands. The Post Incident Analysis of the Lacrosse fire, which happened last year, was conducted by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) with the report released in late April 2015.

    VBA’s investigation will also examine the conduct of the building practitioners involved in the construction of the apartment building. The MFB report stated that the fire was caused by an unextinguished cigarette on an eighth floor balcony, and spread because of the use of a non-compliant aluminium cladding material in the building construction.

    The State Coroner, His Honour Judge Gray, at the request of the MFB, will commence an inquiry into whether regulations were a contributory factor in the fire. In his correspondence to the MFB, Judge Gray noted that “...the central issue appears to be the combustibility of the cladding material used on the `building and, in conjunction with that, whether the National and State regulatory frameworks ensured that risks were identified and addressed”.

    “It will be extremely important to keep a tight and appropriate focus for the investigation and not to duplicate or replicate the work of other investigations into this particular fire,” Judge Gray said.

    This means that the VBA’s role in investigating the conduct of the Lacrosse building practitioners is not being replaced by the Coroner’s investigation.

    VBA Director Compliance and Performance, Kate Despot explained that the VBA conducted its investigations in accordance with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy based on the Australian Government Investigations Standards to ensure admissibility of all evidence gathered for the purposes of possible prosecution or disciplinary action.

    The City of Melbourne, in consultation with the MFB, determined that the Lacrosse building was safe to occupy. Residents were informed at a public meeting held on 27 April 2015 by the City of Melbourne, with MFB and VBA in attendance that they could return to the building.

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