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February 25, 2022

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Sprinkler systems

Major disruption caused by fires on sites lacking sprinkler systems

Ash Green Primary school in Mixenden, and a Nottingham recycling plant, have both been severely damaged by serious fires. According to professionals, these costly fires could have been prevented through a combination of strategies including the use of sprinkler systems.

On 31st January 2022, 60 firefighters were called to a blaze on Abbeyfield Road in Lenton. 12 appliances and special equipment was required including aerial ladder platforms and high-volume pumps.

While there were no reported injuries in the blaze, and the surrounding businesses were not in use at the time, the impact on the local community and environment was significant. A major ‘A’ road was closed, and residents were forced to close windows and doors due to harmful smoke. What remains of the circa 1700m2   building is set to be demolished.

The incident is one of many recycling fires to occur in the UK in the past 12 months, all typified by large numbers of firefighters being required to contain the blaze where there was a presence of a high fire load due to highly combustible materials.

These fires not only pose an obvious danger to the health of those nearby, but they also cause major environmental implications and significant costs to businesses due to property loss.

According to the Business Sprinkler Alliance, (BSA), preventing large, costly fires is possible through a combination of strategies, one being the use of sprinkler systems which contain and control fires before the Fire and Rescue Service arrives. This minimises the wider impact of unmanageable fires, reducing costs to business and the economy as a whole.

A similar incident recently occurred at a primary school in Halifax, where a fire destroyed a quarter of a key stage two building.

On 1st February 2022, 10 fire crews and one aerial ladder platform was required to tackle the blaze. Whilst the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service managed to control the flames, extensive damage was caused to the single-storey upper school building, and the school was effectively forced to close to deal with the aftermath.

The school had no sprinklers fitted, and the impact will be felt by over 500 pupils. Some may assume that schools are designed to withstand risks, whether that’s in regard to fire, flood, or storm, but, according to the BSA, too often buildings are conceived without consideration of the impact those risks may have to the life of the building.

The BSA argue that, although sprinkler systems are a celebrated solution to contain such events and are mandatory in new school buildings in Scotland and encouraged in Wales, their effectiveness has not led to successful implementation across all UK schools.

By limiting fire damage, sprinkler systems allow businesses to resume operations quickly, often within hours of an incident. This was adequately demonstrated at a waste site in Irlam back in January 2021.

After a fire broke out at the premises, fire sprinklers fitted at the site activated, quickly putting out the fire and minimising the damage cause as a result of the incident.

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