Apartment towers fitted with high-risk cladding could become a target for arsonists or terrorists if their locations across Melbourne are revealed, the city's fire service warns.
The caution comes as authorities complete testing to confirm the make-up of cladding on Spencer Street’s NEO 200 tower which caught fire on Monday, sparked by a cigarette on a 22nd-floor balcony.
“Once the fire got going on the balcony, it’s our belief that it did involve some of the cladding materials,” Metropolitan Fire Brigade assistant chief officer Trent Curtain told reporters on Tuesday.
The address had previously been identified as ‘moderate risk’ due to its external cladding and was one of more than 2000 inspected by the Victorian Building Authority.
There have been calls for a list of suspect buildings to be publicly released, but Mr Curtain said the MFB had concerns.
“Given the current environment we have in terms of terrorism and other arson activity, the release of information that identifies properties at risk of rapid fire burning, would be a risk to those communities,” he said.
Instead residents should be provided with the information directly, Mr Curtain added, urging residents to be proactive in obtaining the best information they can for their safety.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on Tuesday said his government would maintain a measured approach to the issue, and listen to the experts.
The Victorian Cladding Taskforce, created after Melbourne’s LaCrosse building went up in flames in 2014, has paved the way forward to reform, Mr Andrews said.
“(The taskforce) gave us a way forward and we have implemented faithfully each and every one of the recommendations.”
Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from the Spencer Street complex for at least 48 hours following a City of Melbourne emergency order.
On Tuesday the council said it’s likely to take longer until the 40-storey building is declared safe to occupy, given the extent of damage.
It is understood residents will be permitted to re-enter the building for a short time only on Wednesday morning.
An emergency relief centre has reopened at Melbourne Town Hall for those affected.
Two notices were issued to building management last year, requiring smoke alarms be installed in bedrooms adjacent to walls covered with the cladding.
Cities across the world began assessing buildings following London’s Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 when an inferno engulfed the 24-storey block of flats, killing 72 people.
Federal Industry Minister Karen Andrews said the state government must urgently address the issue.
“We know there is a significant issue with aluminium cladding. It’s time for the Victorian government to step-up and start fixing these issues,” she told ABC TV.
States and territories will provide a progress update on implementing building regulations for cladding at next week’s meeting of building ministers.