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Forensic teams of the Spanish National Police are continuing to progress with the investigation that will be key to clarifying what happened late on Thursday afternoon, in the building in the Nou Campanar neighbourhood of València. A devastating fire swept through a fourteen-story building like a burning whirlwind. Although many residents were able to leave the 138-home complex and others were rescued by firefighters, ten people tragically lost their lives. Among them, a whole family, a couple with two very young children.

But what happened? The case remains under the wraps of confidentiality. This was ordered by the investigative judge who took responsibility for the case, to protect victims and their relatives, but details of the progress made by the scientific investigators have become known. The hypothesis on the start of the fire that looks most likely is that the electric motor of one of the awnings on a fourth floor balcony, where the fire originated, shorted out. The investigation is still underway, but this is a theory that, for now, seems clearer than others that the investigators have on the table.

An awning motor malfunction, possible cause

The electric motor that powered the balcony awning, which could have emitted some sort of spark due to a short circuit, seems a likely cause of this fatal fire. No-one was inside the fourth floor flat where the fire started. The man who lives there was away, on holiday, which makes the police think that it did not originate from a direct source, a poorly extinguished cigarette butt or some other item.

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A firefighter at work extinguishing the flames of the Nou Campanar apartment complex / Photo: EP


Specialists in structural fire investigations, arrived in the Valencian capital from Madrid, maintain that the flames started on the outside of the building, which facilitated the rapid spread, and also meant that the smoke was not easily detected from inside the flats. The building cladding, incorporating a plastic foam that is now prohibited in new construction, accelerated the spread of the fire, and in less than two hours, both the towers of this apartment complex, were destroyed.

If the fire had started inside, according to the specialists, the flames would have had a more limited route through the facade. In 2012, a fire also occurred in the block, but although it caused damage to the interior of the flat where it started, it had no structural impact.

Ten fatalities in the terrible València blaze

In the rapid spread of the fire, the strong winds blowing on that Thursday afternoon were also a factor. In less than an hour, the fire spread right throughout the complex. Firefighters were unable to control the flames until well into Friday morning. First, four fatalities were located as they could be seen from outside the building. When firefighters and judicial police entered the building, they were able to locate the other six people who were missing.