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Faulty wiring in fridge-freezer started fire, says expert

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The Grenfell Tower fire – which led to the deaths of 72 people – was most likely started by overheating within a Hotpoint fridge-freezer, a public inquiry has heard.

An expert concluded that the blaze on 14 June last year probably started from a Hotpoint FF175BP in the kitchen of Flat 16 in the west London tower block.

A photo of the small wire connector which is thought to have overheated and started the fire was shown to the inquiry on Tuesday.

It was recovered from a small relay compressor compartment at the bottom rear of the fridge-freezer unit.

Victims of the Grenfell Tower fire are remembered with 72 seconds of silence
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Seventy two people died during the deadly blaze last year

Three inches of damaged wire discovered in one of the flat’s bedrooms 27 days after the tragedy probably came from the compressor relay compartment, the inquiry heard.

Electrical fire expert Dr John Duncan Glover highlighted the “poor crimp connection” which failed to keep the wires tightly gripped as they should have been.

He told the inquiry spaces seen in CT scans showed wires had not been “properly crimped”.

“I found voids in all 80 cross-sections indicating the crimp was not nice and tight,” said Dr Glover, a principal engineer at Failure Electrical, a firm which investigates electrical failures.

Wires and connectors recovered from the compressor relay compartment of the fridge-freezer
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Wires and connectors from the compressor relay compartment of the fridge-freezer

In a report for the inquiry, he concluded: “A probable cause of the fire is a poor crimp connection for… an overheated wire connector within the compressor relay compartment for the fridge-freezer (Hotpoint Model FF175BP) from Flat 16.”

He said: “The overheating connector in my opinion was the first event that started burning the insulation on the wires that led to a short circuit.”

Dr Glover added: “The overheating of the crimp starts the fire. It overheats, it glows, it ignites.”

Whirlpool said its own investigation found the fridge-freezer model showed no evidence of any fault, confirming it complied with all safety requirements.

Dr John Duncan Glover highlighted the 'poor crimp connection'
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Dr John Duncan Glover highlighted the ‘poor crimp connection’

In a statement, it said: “We would like to reassure owners of these products that they are safe and they can continue to use them as normal.

“All fridges, freezers, and fridge freezers across all our UK brands – including Hotpoint, Indesit and Whirlpool – are manufactured with solid metal or aluminium laminate flame-retardant back panels.”

An independent investigation earlier this year found the model posed a “low risk” and advised people to carry on using the fridge-freezer.

Dr Glover said models made in the US must have a back casing made from metallic steel, which can help contain internal fires.

He said the plastic allowed for back casings on UK and European models were combustible and could contribute to fires.

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