The 2009 Lakanal House tower block fire was a fire that occurred on 3 July 2009 in Camberwell. London. Six people were killed and at least 20 people were injured when a fire developed and spread through a number of flats in a twelve storey tower block.
The fire, in which six people died occurred in Lakanal House (grid reference TQ 334 768), a 14-storey tower block which forms part of the Sceaux Gardens Estate, Camberwell. Lakanal House has a total of 98 flats. It is 137 feet 6 inches (41.91 m) high. The building dates from 1959. It is made up of two bedroom maisonettes of a distinctive interlocking design. The flats are entered from the right or left side of a central access corridor. On the access level there are two bedrooms and a bathroom. There are stairs to the upper level where a lounge and kitchen which stretches across the full width of the block. This means that the lounge for each flat is above one of the bedrooms of that flat and one of the bedrooms of the flat on the opposite side of the access corridor. The flats were built with fire exits from the lounge and the kitchen to 'exit balconies' on either side of the building and also a fire exit from the largest bedroom into the central access corridor, separate from the front door.
Southwark Council stated that it had recently spent £3,500,000 on refurbishment to meet current fire safety standards.
At 16:20 BST (15:20 UTC) on 3 July 2009, a fire broke out in one of the flats of Lakanal House. London Fire Brigade responded with a total of eighteen fire engines attending the incident. The seat of the fire is thought to have been in a flat on the ninth floor.
London Fire Brigade rescued a number of people from the flats. The injured were taken to Guy's Hospital, King's College Hospital and Lewisham. One person admitted to Guys Hospital and two people admitted to King's College Hospital later died, as well as three people who died in the fire. Nine other people were treated at an emergency centre set up by Southwark Council. One of the firemen was also admitted to hospital after being injured while fighting the fire.
The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into the fire, which was initially treated as "suspicious". but was later said to be due to an electrical fault in a television set.
The London Fire Brigade has also opened an investigation into the fire. It was revealed that Lakanal House had been identified as being at risk of enabling a fire to spread if one should occur in one of the flats. In 1999, Southwark Council scheduled the building for demolition although later it was decided not to demolish it. Although it was originally reported that some of the windows were uPVC the windows in the block were in fact made of metal.
London Fire Brigade assistant commissioner Nick Collins described the event as "one of the most significant fires in some time in terms of lives lost". Around 150 people were evacuated or rescued from the flats, with 50 people being evacuated to nearby Welton Hall. Some of them found alternative accommodation with relatives although the majority were provided with accommodation by Southwark Council. Residents of the flats criticised the layout of the flats which did not provide easy egress in case of an emergency. The flats also lacked a central fire alarm system which was not required by virtue of the current guidance, Approved Document B for England And Wales. The guidance prevalent at the time of the construction of buildings of this age was far removed from the current state of regulation and control under Building Regulations. There had been calls in 2006 for the flats to be demolished. It was claimed that the residents had been told that the flats could not be demolished as they were a listed building. Harriet Harman, in whose constituency the flats lie, announced that there would be a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire and whether or not there were adequate fire prevention measures.
A number of tower blocks of a similar design exist, such as the nearby Perronet House, also in Southwark. Perronet however has 2 staircases. Marie Curie House nearby is of identical design to Lakanal.
Nick Stanton, the then leader of Southwark Council said that it could be "days if not weeks" before tenants would be able to return to their homes. Mayor of London Boris Johnson described the fire as an "horrendous incident" and announced an investigation into the design of the building, which has a single central staircase. London Assembly Planning and Housing Committee chairwoman Jenny Jones called for a public inquiry into the fire. Communities Secretary John Denham asked for an urgent report from the Government's Chief Fire and Rescue Advisor. At a meeting of Southwark Council, Cllr Ian Wingfield called for a "full and independent public enquiry" into the fire. The Fire Brigades Union supported the call for a public inquiry.