An electrical short circuit on a spotlight was the cause of a fire that engulfed The Address Downtown Dubai hotel on New Year’s Eve, according to police.
A spark from cables connected to the light, which sat on a ledge between the 14th and 15th floors of the 63-storey tower, triggered the blaze at about 9.25pm.
Police have ruled out any foul play and said that the alarms did not sound immediately because the fire had started on the outside of the building, so internal alarms had yet to be triggered by smoke. Many hotel guests had said that no alarm was heard and that they only fled the building after they heard shouting from staff and other guests.
Dubai Police chief Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzeina said yesterday: "The results of the investigation come after inspecting the area where the fire started, collecting and testing evidence as well as listening to witnesses’ testimonies."
He added that no flammable liquids, such as petrol, played a part in the blaze.
Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed, head of the forensics and mechanical engineering department at Dubai Police’s forensic science and criminology unit, said that the light cables run alongside other wires that run to balconies. "The first four floors of the 63-storey building include parking areas, offices, a health club and restaurants, while the rest of the tower is apartments," he said.
"The building also has projecting ledges, some located at the entrances of the hotel, some between the 14th and 15th floors and others on the top floors, the 48th floor and above.
"These ledges have spotlights that are connected to cables via openings in the building, whose walls also contain wires connected to some balconies and other lights."
Mr Ahmed said the fire began between apartments 1401 and 1504, in an area that contained a small, 1.1-metre-wide pathway and a ledge.
He said that only one of the four spotlights in this area had entirely melted cables, helping to pinpoint the source of the fire.
"Experts checked apartment 1504 and came to the conclusion that the fire spread to the unit from the side of the window, which looks onto the pathway and the ledge, and not from inside the apartment," Mr Ahmed said, adding that the fire also spread to apartment 1401 through falling debris.
A man on the 18th floor was the first to contact the hotel’s reception to say he could smell burning, he said. The fire had already spread to other floors by the time security located where it had started.
The forensic scientist reiterated that the blaze was an unfortunate incident and that there was no evidence of foul play.
"Because the incident took place on New Year’s Eve, when celebrations across the country were planned, people became suspicious, but there was absolutely no criminal intent," Mr Ahmed said. "The fire was an accident, and wires can be exposed to many things, such as heat, dust and humidity."
Maj Gen Al Muzeina said that getting everyone to safety that night had been the authorities’ top priority, and it was achieved successfully with relatively few injuries reported.
Fifteen people were injured, while one person suffered a heart attack while being removed from the building.
"Almost all residents got their belongings back," the police chief said.
He also thanked Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, for his efforts in closely following the case, as well as all the fire and rescue teams involved.