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May 12, 2022


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Fire news

Blaze in Harlow destroys ‘unsprinklered’ local food factory

A large blaze at an industrial site in Harlow destroyed the production facilities of a local food manufacturer in late April, with the Business Sprinkler Alliance highlighting the lack of sprinklers in the building which may have helped contain the fire.

The devastating fire swept through an “unsprinklered sausage factory”, highlighted the Business Sprinkler Alliance, sending plumes of orange smoke across the town, with the long-established business now counting the cost of the damage and dealing with the disruption to their livelihoods.


Image credit: Essex Fire & Rescue Service

Essex Fire and Rescue Service was called to the fire on April 26th when it broke out at the Riverway Food production facility during the night shift. On arrival, the factory was 95% alight and 100% smoke logged which limited access. The blaze required 70 firefighters, 10 appliances and specialist equipment including aerial ladder platforms. It took 36 hours before fire crews could hand the site over to security staff. Fire crews were forced to return to the site four days later due to reports of smoke and a hot spot from an unstable part of the damaged building.

While workers escaped unharmed, considerable resources were used by the fire and rescue service to control the fire. The impact on the local community and environment was significant with local road closures, residents forced to keep their windows and doors closed due to harmful smoke and several measures employed to minimise the impact of pollution to the local environment.

Iain Cox, Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance, commented: “It is interesting to note that this fire took place in a modestly-sized building, which the company referenced on their website as being a ‘21st century factory’ that was purpose built with the latest technology. The fire service worked hard to protect surrounding properties yet the intervention of 70 firefighters could not stop the fire in a building of this size. Industrial fires impact far larger premises with similar results and with potentially larger impacts.

“We must always be thankful when a fire is contained and extinguished with no loss of life, but it is not enough. Lives are still affected regardless, and we must strive to minimise the effect that fire has in all circumstances. When we minimise fire spread we not only protect lives, we protect property, businesses and jobs.

“A properly controlled fire can be the difference between a building requiring renovation or demolition. Halting the spread of fire when it is first detected is the best way to limit damage and minimise costs and impacts. Sprinklers have been shown to contain, control or extinguish fires in 99% of cases. The impacted business can be operational within hours, avoiding the economic and social costs.”


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