The Torch, Dubai – 79 Story Residential High-Rise Fire

For the second time in the last two years, Dubai’s tallest residential high-rise, The Torch, caught fire. Amazingly the fire was brought under control in relatively quick fashion, with no injuries and no fatalities.

The Torch caught fire in 2015 as well. And in similar fashion, the fire was brought under control with no fatalities. Still, the question remains, how does a 79 story residential high-rise catch fire twice in such a short period of time? The answer may lie in the exterior panels.

According to ABC News, “Most of Dubai’s approximately 250 high-rise buildings use cladding panels with thermoplastic cores… Panels can consist of plastic or polyurethane fillings sandwiched between aluminium sheets” (ABC News, 8/2017). The flammability of the exterior panels leads to rapid fire spread. The dramatic footage can be seen in the video below:

Video Credit: WSPA 7News

As Firefighters, we should take videos such as this and conduct our own mental assessment of how we would handle a similar fire in our own jurisdiction. How do we approach a fire in such a massive structure? What is our tactical priority?

For most structure fires, search and rescue is our number one priority. However, searching a structure as massive as this takes a lot of time, energy, and resources. In large structures and high-rises, fire attack may have the greatest impact on victim survivability.

What are your thoughts? If you were first-in, what would be your initial report? What would be your immediate strategy? If you were the Incident Commander, what would be your tactical priorities?
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