More should be done to protect businesses from fire!

Mon 3 Feb, 2014

Above: A picture of last month's warehouse fire in Newport Pagnell taken from Great Holm Fire Station's turntable ladder.

Below: A picture showing part of the inside of the warehouse after the fire.

Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is today marking the launch of the first ever national Fire Sprinkler Week, and highlighting the vital role played by sprinklers, by releasing further pictures of last month’s warehouse fire in Newport Pagnell.

The fire, which broke out on 15 January and caused a plume of smoke which could be seen for miles around, quickly destroyed the Coolectric building in Renny Park Road.

The warehouse did not have sprinklers fitted, as they are not mandatory in this country in warehouses under 20,000 square metres. In many other countries, including France, Spain and Germany, they would have been required by law.

Jason Thelwell, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's Chief Operating Officer, said: “Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service and Milton Keynes Council recommended the installation of sprinklers when plans for the warehouse were submitted for building regulation consultation in 2001, but the developers were under no obligation to install them.

“The good news was that the building was safely evacuated when the fire broke out and no-one was injured, and that fire safety engineering designed to give added protection to the adjoining office accommodation did a thorough job. But we believe that more could and should be done to protect businesses against the devastating effects of fire.

“Controlling a fire as it starts is better than repairing the damage after it has spread. Insurance covers some of the financial burden, but the impact from fire loss is far-reaching, and tackling a fire at its earliest stages is vital for the well-being of people, properties, the environment and the economy.”

Independent research has shown that warehouse fires alone cause a direct financial loss to businesses in England and Wales of £232 million a year.

Jason added: “Sprinklers are easier and cheaper to fit than many people think, representing between one and two per cent of the cost of a new build. They save lives and jobs and reduce repair costs. In the absence of legislation, it is our responsibility to prove the case for them."

Fire services are now calling on the Government to promote more actively the installation of sprinklers in industrial and commercial premises, and to review current guidance to bring fire safety policy in line with those of other countries.

Many fire services, including Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, have also been campaigning for several years for the installation of sprinklers in new homes. In 2011, Chief Fire Officer Mark Jones encouraged local people to sign a national petition urging the Government to bring in a new law.

Last year Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service held a national sprinkler conference in Aston Clinton, and produced a video as part of its continuing drive to promote the installation of sprinklers.

Following weeks of planning, and under carefully controlled conditions, fires were started and filmed in four bungalows awaiting demolition in Chalfont St Peter.

Three of the bungalows were fitted with different types of suppression system which effectively controlled the fires. The fire in the bungalow that was not fitted with sprinklers caused extensive damage.

Fire Sprinkler Week was devised by the Chief Fire Officers Association and is supported by the Business Sprinkler Alliance, the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, the Local Government Association and the National Fire Sprinkler Network.