Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister Noh Omar says the fire which broke out at the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) building was an accident, and that there was no foul play or sabotage involved.
He said the fire occurred during exterior insulation and finish system or EIFS (waterproofing) repair work using granule bitumen membrane roll, which had been carried out on the first floor of the building’s rear foyer.
Noh said in order for the material to stick to the concrete floor, the waterproofing membrane needed to be melted first, using the single-burner flame gun method and liquefied petroleum gas.
“The contractor was not aware that the cladding (covering or coating on a structure) for the building from the EIFS-type was made of combustible materials, namely polystyrene foam, when carrying out the melting method.
“The EPF building underwent renovation involving the installation of the cladding in 2003,” he told a press conference at his office here yesterday.
Noh said the Fire and Rescue Department had received a distress call at 11.52am and that firefighters arrived at the scene about five minutes later.
The firemen took about 30 minutes to put out the blaze, and 527 employees in the building were evacuated, he added.
According to Noh, the fire involved 5% of the entire building: the left and rear portion of the building, as well as a small area on the sixth floor.
Based on the impact and witness testimonies, the minister said the blaze started on the left side of the building’s rear foyer on the first floor.
“The source of the flames that triggered the fire came from the gas, which was used in the single-burner flame gun, and was exposed to the cladding installed outside the (building) wall. Subsequently, the fire spread rapidly on the cladding that was made of polystyrene foam,” Noh said.
Approved cladding materials
He ordered the management of buildings fitted with inflammable cladding to remove the material immediately and replace it with substances approved by the Fire and Rescue Department.
Noh said approved cladding materials according to the Uniform Building By-Laws 1984 were, among others, clay material for wall-finishing materials, aluminium composite panels and exterior compact high pressure laminates.
“May I remind and warn all building owners to remove the polystyrene foam immediately. It is an offence if the material is found to be in use. Please cooperate with the Fire and Rescue Department,” he said, adding the department would also conduct spot checks on buildings suspected to be using flammable cladding material.
“If building owners are not sure of the materials used, they can contact the Fire and Rescue Department to conduct a thorough inspection. We must take precautionary measures,” he said.
Noh said the full report on the fire was expected to be released in two weeks.
Based on records from the Fire and Rescue Department, he said, a similar incident had occurred at the Kuala Lumpur Library at Jalan Sultan Hishammuddin in 2016, where the same material was used.-FMT