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Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
July 25, 2022

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022

Sprinkler systems

Ruptured sprinkler system feed helps suppress Watford tower block fire

A fire at a tower block in Watford was successfully supressed by a sprinkler system, it has emerged.

The fire at Abbey View on the Meriden Estate is believed to have been started deliberately in a bin storage area outside the residential block. The fire mainly affected the exterior of the 17-storey building, but it did damage flats on the first and second floors, breaking window glazing and melting UPVC window frames, and causing superficial damage to the building’s facade.

In a somewhat curious development, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service told IFSEC Global that the fire was suppressed due to the externally located sprinkler system feed being damaged by it, and therefore reducing the fire size, effectively carrying out the aim of the suppression system – albeit externally.

The fire service confirmed that a number of sprinklers activated, and that if the fire had been larger and spread internally the sprinkler system would have operated as designed.

Around 60 firefighters attended the fire. Although a stay put policy was in place, some residents evacuated the building. There were no injuries.

Commenting on the incident, Tina Barnard, Chief Executive of Watford Community Housing Trust, said that an illegally fly-tipped sofa next to the block’s bin storage area has been set alight. “The [sprinkler] system discharged as designed in specific areas where it was required. Although the fire caused a disruption to a feed pipe, the system had already successfully deployed prior to this unforeseen event.

“We are working with Watford Borough Council and the police, and using CCTV to identify anyone who fly-tips items…We’re also currently reviewing security protocols at our high-rise locations.”

In contrast, residents of the block have since criticised the fire protection strategy of the building.

In 2019, the trust invested more than £1.5 million in safety measures across its two high-rise blocks, including a sprinkler system and Grade D LD1 detection and alarm systems.

Two boys, aged 13 and 14, have been charged with arson with reckless endangerment.


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