The fire at online fashion retailer ASOS’ main warehouse might have been started deliberately, according to South Yorkshire Police.
A criminal investigation into the fire, which forced the UK’s largest online-only fashion retailer to cancel a third of its pending orders and temporarily shut down its website, has been launched.
The installation of sprinklers, say South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, prevented the fire from causing even more damage – potentially saving the entire warehouse from destruction – although they themselves caused water damage to goods, rendering them unsellable.
The fire broke out at ASOS’s distribution centre in Barnsley, where the company held around 70% of its £159m stock, on 20 June. According to the Wall Street Journal, the fire destroyed around 20% – some £22m worth – of the company’s stock.
More than 60 firefighters and 10 fire engines tackled the blaze overnight and around 500 people were evacuated from the four-storey, 60,000-square-metre building. No one was hurt.
Sophisticated suppression systems
South Yorkshire FRS head of prevention and protection Phil Shillito said: “The fire suppression systems installed by ASOS were sophisticated, worked effectively and played a significant role in reducing the spread of the fire in its early stages. This was still a major fire and our firefighters did a tremendous job in tackling the blaze and bringing it under control so quickly.”
ASOS was fully insured and its website back in action three days later. The fire did not affect technology, racking, conveyors or the building’s structure.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 19,306 recorded cases of arson in England and Wales in 2012/13.
Arson costs the UK at least £40m and leads to an average of 55 injuries and two deaths across the country per week.
Although the number of deliberately started fires has been steadily falling since its peak in 2003/04, arson still accounted for 45% of the total number of fires attended by local authority FRSs in England in 2012-13, comprising 68,900 out of a total of 154,000 attended fires – an average of 1,325 a week.
Only warehouses and commercial premises larger than 20,000 square metres – a threshold the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) wants lowered – must have sprinkler systems installed.