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Coroner starts work on tower cladding inquiry

A spokeswoman for the coroner confirmed an investigation into the November 25 fire at Lacrosse Tower had begun, with police given up to six months to complete a brief for Coroner Ian Gray.

Although nobody died in the fire, in Melbourne’s Docklands, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade took the unprecedented step this year of requesting an inquest.

The Australian can also reveal the builder of the fire-ravaged tower, LU Simon, submitted a report to Melbourne City Council last week outlining a proposal to replace the non-conforming cladding.

A council spokeswoman confirmed a submission from the builder was being considered but could not be released until expert analysis had been completed. This is despite the 312 apartment owners potentially having to bear the cost individually of replacing the external cladding after the council issued them “show-cause” notices this year.

The notices, giving owners 60 days to detail to council how they will make their building compliant with building and safety regulations, are due to expire in coming weeks although an application for an extension of time was being considered.

LU Simon is under investigation by the Victorian Building Authority and faces potential legal action by residents and the building’s insurer for using nonconforming and combustible cladding on the apartment complex.

The coronial investigation comes as fire authorities continued to warn residents the building was still clad in highly flammable material presenting an “unacceptable” risk to lives.

Residents were allowed to return to their apartments after the council and the MFB ruled the building was safe to occupy.

However, Fire Protection Association chief executive Scott Williams said residents were taking a “calculated risk” living in a building considered highly flammable. He called on the coroner to investigate whether it was appropriate for residents to be allowed back.

“This building is still non-compliant due to the combustible cladding, with residents continuing to use the balconies and this includes the use of BBQs, patio heaters, candles and smoking, which are all potential ignition sources,” he said. “Unless other measures ... have been put in place, this situation is unacceptable.”


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