THE deadly London inferno that saw flames leap from floor to floor through the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block has set off alarm bells in Australia.

Independent senator Nick Xenophon has called for an urgent audit of all buildings across Australia suspected of containing non-complaint materials.

Senator Xenophon told Nine's Today show that an audit was needed to ensure flammable building products weren't being used on Australian buildings.

"We just need to know what is being used on apartment buildings, including those being retrofitted are fire retardant and meet Australian standards," he told Nine.

"Some of this cladding is OK to use on a single-storey build, but not for multistorey buildings and the problem is we just don't know the extent of it.

"When you have firefighters saying this stuff makes our job almost impossible to do, that is very disturbing."

Senator Xenophon is on the Senate committee to hand down a report this year on nonconforming building projects.

He told The Australian the London blaze was a "much more serious version of Lacrosse", referring to the fire that engulfed Melbourne's Docklands in less than 11 minutes.

It was determined the Lacrosse fire was started by a cigarette on a cluttered balcony, according a report into the blaze by the Metropolitan Fire Brigade.

The report criticised the use of illegal cladding imported cheaply from China and installed in breach of Australia's building code and fire and safety regulations.

The cladding used was Alucobest - aluminium on the outside and polyethylene fibre on the inside.

Jeff Wilkinson, one of Britain's leading building inspectors and fire engineers, told ABC's Radio National on Thursday morning the Grenfell Tower block fire was the "worst tragedy" he'd seen in 30 years.

"In all our experiences this is the worst tragedy we've ever seen... I've never seen a building go up in this way," he said.

Mr Wilkinson said while fingers were being pointed at the building's aluminium cladding - part of refurbishment works that were carried out - it was still too early to determine what caused the blaze to spread so rapidly.

"Something serious has gone wrong here," he told host Fran Kelly.

"We have certainly seen in the past fires from 1992 and more recently where the fire has spread up the gap between the external cladding panel and the original face of the building... which draws the fire up at a higher rate.

"That in itself shouldn't have caused the fire to have spread the way it has, it would have to have broken back into the building and then having got into building.

"It could have been that the fire spread both internally and externally but it's far too soon to determine if that was the cause."

News Corp Australia

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