The jury's out on timber framed blocks
This time there were no fatalities and the fire appears to have acted in a predictable way although questions will still need to be answered as to why the blaze spread rapidly.
The building had been fire risk assessed in November 2009.
Some residents described using the experience of the tragedy at Lakanal House in Camberwell.
They ignored Fire Service advice to stay put in the event of a tower block fire until firefighters arrive and got out. A number, probably inadvisably, used the lifts.
Residents continue to show anxiety about their vulnerability in the event of fire. Another fire is also a reminder to the London Assembly that its current investigation (due to report in September) into the safety of high rises in the capital is both timely and its recommendations urgent.
The question of whether to stay put is particularly important when it comes to timber framed buildings. Anecdotally it is reported that this type of structure is gaining favour with developers and constructors and more are being built across London.
This has worried some architects like Sam Webb who is concerned that these structures are not as safe as they are being made out to be.
In this month's Royal Institute of British Architects' journal, Webb highlights the ambiguity over a test on a timber framed block at the British Research Establishment Centre at Cardington in 1999.
The reason this deserves our attention is that the report of this test, TF2000, is often cited as a reassurance that timber framed buildings comply with the 60 minute compartmentalisation rule for blocks of flats. Each individual living unit must guarantee 60 minutes fire resistance for fire-fighters to rescue residents.
The compartment test was deemed a success in TF2000, but Webb reports that the testers failed to point out that in the very early hours of the following day the Fire Brigade was called out to the test centre because a fire in a cavity in the test block had reignited the block.
It took several hours to get the fire under control. Webb says this makes the test unreliable evidence on which to assume these types of structure are safe.
The UK Timber Frame Association have told us that the fire at the BRE test site was not relevant to passing judgement on the robustness of these structures because the test was specifically about compartmentation.
A subsequent report by Chiltern Fire into the causes of the cavity fire at the test centre, made it clear that a high standard of workmanship was critical in timber framed blocks to prevent the spread of fire. There should be adequate cavity stops and an open recognition that fire crews were not always familiar with detecting these types of fire, because they are often difficult to spot.
Back in December I reported on a similar cavity fire in an inhabited block in Croydon in 2007 which had destroyed the entire building. Webb cites this as strong evidence of how blocks behave in real life, as opposed to test, conditions. He concludes that we are far from understanding the dangers inherent in timber framed construction.
One way of being better prepared, acknowledged by the London Assembly in its preliminary investigations, would be an inventory of all such timber framed buildings in the capital.
Curiously enough I was in the process of trying to find out this information under the Freedom of Information Act. At BBC London we'd approached all 32 London boroughs to find out what they know.
The results are quite disturbing. Twenty-seven London boroughs are clueless. No idea how many timber-framed blocks have been built or are being built in their boroughs. Three claim they have a fair idea and Kingston and Newham refused to answer the question.
If we follow Webb's analysis in the RIBA journal, what this means in reality is that no-one has really got a handle on how safe these blocks are, and more importantly public authorities in London don't know how or where they are being built.
In the event of a fire in these blocks it is highly doubtful that the Fire Brigade will be warned about what they are dealing with until they get on site.
As the Chiltern Fire report said, specialist equipment is needed to search for cavity fires in timber-framed buildings.
The Chairman of the London Fire Authority, Brian Coleman, says this is evidence enough for him not to want to live in such a block. He also maintains that regulations need to be introduced so that the fire authority and local authority planners are provided with this information once a building is completed.
The new Head of Housing in Southwark, elected since the Lakanal debacle, says the fire in a timber framed block under construction in Peckham in November has convinced him that the law is deficient. Ian Wingfield believes that local authorities must once again have a statutory responsibility to be able to inspect buildings under construction.
We should know what the London Assembly makes of all this by the beginning of September. They may only be able to recommend a change in the law, but they could certainly make it clear there needs to be an urgent change in the culture which seems to have relegated fire safety priorities in high rise London.