Warehouse blaze highlights risks to businesses, say fire chiefs

Feb 05, 2014


The blaze (pictured), which broke out on January 15 and could be seen for miles, is being used by Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service to highlight the importance of sprinklers in controlling fires when they break out.
Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s chief operating officer Jason Thelwell said: “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."
The Coolectric warehouse in Renny Park Road did not have sprinklers fitted, as they are not mandatory in this country in warehouses under 20,000 square metres.
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.
In many other countries, including France, Spain and Germany, they would have been required by law.
Mr Thelwell said: “ “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.”
He was speaking at the start of Fire Sprinkler Week. 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.
Independent research has shown that warehouse fires alone cause a direct financial loss to businesses in England and Wales of £232 million a year.
Mr Thelwell said: “Sprinklers are easier and cheaper to fit than many people think, representing between 1% and 2% 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."
Many fire services, including Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, have also been campaigning for several years for the installation of sprinklers in new homes.
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.
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