ONGOING UPDATES: Fires in Recycling Plants: Is it time legislation is reviewed?

Fires at recycling plants appear to be on the increase.  Many of these fires impact on the local environment and economies as well as the recycling businesses themselves.  There have been many occasions now when local residents are asked to evacuate the vicinity; often roads or rail can be affected too.  Instances of asbestos in the environment and acrid smoke are commonplace.  Is it time that legislation is reviewed?

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: ASOS Distribution Centre, Barnsley

A major fire at the ASOS warehouse near Barnsley which involved four floors is believed to have been started deliberately. The incident could have been devastating for the Company had fire sprinklers not been installed and Fire officers say sprinklers were key to limiting the spread of the fire. 

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service have issued the following statement:

Fire broke out at the 60,000 square metre site on Park Spring Ring, Grimethorpe at around 10pm on Friday (20 June). Ten fire engines and more than 60 firefighters helped put out the fire, which is estimated have caused millions of pounds worth of damage in lost stock.
But the damage could have been even greater had the building not had a sprinkler system, with the fire service urging more businesses to invest sprinkler systems to protect their assets.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue 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. But there is no doubt that the sprinkler system in place greatly limited the damage, and probably saved the warehouse from being destroyed.”
Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service can arrive. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and the environment from fire.
Currently, only commercial premises greater than 20,000m2 must have sprinkler systems installed. The fire service, through the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), is currently campaigning for this threshold to be lowered.

Share prices of ASOS had returned to their previous levels by midmorning of the first day’s trading after the incident.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Domestic Property, Chelmsford, Essex

At just before a quarter to eleven on the night of Monday 12th May, a fire occurred in a house in Chelmsford, Essex.  Essex Fire and Rescue Service mobilised two appliances to the incident.

It is reported that a fire had started in the lower of a set of bunk beds in a first floor bedroom of the two storey terraced house. Upon being alerted, the occupier tackled the fire with saucepans of water but as the heat from the fire rose, it activated one sprinkler head positioned in the bedroom. Though the fire was shielded, it is understood that no fire-fighting action was needed by attending crews due to the actions of the occupier and sprinkler system.

The property is one of three in a housing association managed terrace fitted with mains fed, BS9251 sprinklers. 

Report courtesy of National Fire Sprinkler Network.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Laundery Facility, Watford, Hertfordshire

At about 03.24 am  in  the early hours of Friday  30th May 2014, a fire started  in a large  wheeled cage containing laundry in the ground floor drying machine area of a large Laundry in Sydney Road , Watford, Hertfordshire.

Heat from the fire  caused the operation of a single sprinkler head which quickly controlled and suppressed the fire, stopping it spreading to other combustible materials in the area. This is the second successful sprinkler activation to occur at this premises this year .

Once again the sprinkler system ensured the business continuity of the site, as following  a ‘clean up’ of the affected area ,  the business was able to operate effectively the next day.

Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service crews reported that the fire was out on arrival with one fire fighting jet used to ensure the fire was fully extinguished. Fire-fighters in Breathing Apparatus ventilated the premises.

Thanks to Hertfordshire FRS for this information.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Retail Unit, Glasgow

On 7th May 2014 a fire occurred in a mobile phone shop within a shopping centre on the outskirts of Glasgow. The alarm was raised very early in the morning when the shop was closed and unoccupied.

It was found that the fire had started in a first floor toilet, where a wall mounted notice had fallen on to an electric heater (which had been left switched on).

A single sprinkler head in the toilet operated and the fire was extinguished by the time the Fire Service gained access. The fire was prevented from spreading and fire damage was limited to a very small area around the heater.

It is understand the shop was closed for a short period due to the incident but otherwise the rest of the shopping centre was open and trading as normal without interruption.

Report courtesy of National Fire Sprinkler Network.

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Blaze-ravaged Glasgow Art School was due to get new fire sprinklers

THE Glasgow School of Art went on fire just weeks before a new sprinkler system was due to be installed.

Bosses at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed building were revealed to be finalising a new “fire suppression system”, with work due to begin next month.

The system was not installed earlier because the institution had struggled to attract the finances to complete the project.

The cost of Friday’s blaze is estimated at around £50million.

The library, which contained hundreds of rare periodicals and collections, was destroyed along with countless works of art and the roof of the west wing.

In their planning application for the sprinkler system, officials said that the building had “been subjected to more than 100 years use of paint, chemicals etc, soaking into the fabric which undoubtedly has increased flammability”.

Art school spokeswoman Lesley Booth said: “There has never been a sprinkler system in the building. We were in the process of installing a fire suppression system. It was a bespoke one especially for that building.”

The cost of Friday’s blaze is estimated at around £50million.

(As reported by www.express.co.uk)

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: St Helens Distribution Warehouse

Fire investigators found that a sprinkler system saved a St Helens warehouse from serious damage. 

A suspected electrical fault in a lorry sparked a blaze at a giant distribution warehouse on Elton Head Road shortly after 11.30pm on April 25.

But crews from St Helens and Whiston Fire Stations spent just over an hour at the scene after a sprinkler system prevented the flames from spreading to the warehouse.

Watch manager Wayne Woods, from Whiston Community Fire Station, said: “A refrigerated LGV, around 18 tonnes, was parked under a covered loading bay when a fire started in the truck.

“Although the fire caused significant damage to the vehicle the adjacent building was saved from fire damage. But the situation would have been much worse had it not been for the operation of the sprinkler system, which, in addition to protecting the main building, also covered the loading bay areas.

“The system suppressed the fire to such an extent that crews were able to quickly bring the incident under control and the warehouse was fully operational within two hours of the start of the fire.

“The site’s emergency procedures were instigated and there were no reports of injuries.”

Earlier this year Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service staged a demonstration to highlight the impact of sprinklers in containing a fire and protecting items at the service’s training and development academy.

Reported in The St Helens Reporter

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Primary School, Wednesbury, West Midlands

Dave John from West Midlands Fire Service reports that on Thursday 1st May, at about 4pm, a fire started in an IT room at an 85m x 40m, single storey, Primary School in Friar Park, Wednesbury, West Midlands. There were about 100 pupils and staff in the school at the time.

The fire, understood to have started in a cooling fan, was first tackled by staff with an extinguisher and blanket before one sprinkler head operated on the schools system. The fire was confined to the room of origin and reported as ‘Out on Arrival’ when crews from the two mobilised appliances assessed the situation.

Reinstatement of the affected area took up to 6 days with about £30k of damage being reported. The Head-teacher at the school related how damage and disruption could have been much worse as the fire could potentially have spread to affect a large proportion of the school.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Loading Canopy, St Helens, Merseyside

Glen Thomas from Merseyside F&RS reports that at 23:34 hours on Friday 25th April a serious fire occurred at a large (50,000m²) distribution warehouse in St Helens.

A 26 Tonne refrigerated LGV was parked under a covered loading bay when ignition occurred within the truck.  Merseyside F&RS mobilised two appliances with 9 crew members to deal with the incident.

The fire caused 50% damage to the vehicle and 5% damage to the canopy but the situation would have been much worse had it not been for the operation of the sprinkler system, which, in addition to protecting the main building, also covered the loading bay areas.

The system suppressed the fire to such an extent that crews were able to bring the incident under control and the warehouse was fully operational within 2 hours of the start of the fire. It is reported that 21 heads needed replacement on the Ordinary Hazard, tank fed sprinkler installation. None of the 50 occupants were reported as being hurt as a result of the fire.

The actual cause of fire is still being investigated but is thought at this stage to be of electrical origin.

The Health & Safety manager was recalled to the premises from home and was said to be very impressed by the suppression system and its ability to control the situation.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Automotive facility, Warwickshire

Just before a quarter to 11pm on Wednesday 30th April, Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service mobilised two appliances to a report of a fire at an automotive facility in the county.
On arrival the works fire team had also responded to the fire in an area of a 60m x 20m single storey industrial unit, used for the processing and moulding of electrical components.

It is reported that no fire-fighting action was required by crews as one head on the mains fed sprinkler system had operated. It is understood that this extinguished the fire and prevented fire spread to the rest of the building.

Fire damage was limited to and area of about 3m x2m though some disruption to the facility was caused due to the need to thoroughly clean the affected area.

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Sprinklers Stop Fire: Automotive Parts factory, Minworth, Warwickshire

16th April 2014

Many thanks to Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service for this information:

At 18:37 hours on Wednesday 16th April 2014 a fire occurred in a factory producing plastic moulded parts for the automotive industry at Minworth, Warwickshire.

The fire started in the 100m x 100m single storey, portal framed building with thermo clad panelling in an area only used by daytime staff who had gone home. It believed the source of ignition was a heat gun placed on a work station.

One upright sprinkler head on the towns mains fed system operated to control the fire.  Workers among the 50 night staff were alerted and were able to contribute to its extinction using dry powder extinguishers.

The damage caused meant that some production was lost until the following day but had the sprinklers not operated, the area affected by the fire would have been much larger than the 2m x 2m reported. 

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