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of the British Broadcasting Corporation



Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 12:59 GMT
Sprinklers may have saved firemen

Four firefighters might not have died in the Warwickshire warehouse blaze if the building had a sprinkler system, a fire chief has said.

The chief fire officer for Lancashire Peter Holland has called for all warehouses to install the devices.

Currently only those over 20,000 sq m in size legally need to have them fitted. He said he was not pre-empting an inquiry into the deaths.

The men died in a warehouse fire in Atherstone on Stour on 2 November.

Firefighter Ian Reid, 44, died in hospital, while the bodies of firefighters Ashley Stephens, 20, John Averis, 27, and Darren Yates-Badley, 24, were found in the wreckage of the vegetable packing warehouse.

The blaze was the biggest killer of British firefighters since 1972, when a warehouse fire in Glasgow claimed the lives of seven firefighters.

If a sprinkler system had been fitted... it is unlikely we would be mourning the loss of those firefighters
Peter Holland, Lancashire's chief fire officer

Peter Holland, the chief fire officer for Lancashire said the law needed to be tightened so smaller warehouses also have to have sprinkler systems.

"Whereas high street shops and supermarkets of over 2,000 sq m floor space are obliged in law to fit fire sprinklers, only warehouses of over 20,000 sq m must have sprinklers," he said.

"I suspect that if a sprinkler system had been fitted in the warehouse in Atherstone on Stour, it is unlikely we would be mourning the loss of those firefighters."

Police have revealed there were 50 people at the site of the blaze in Atherstone on Stour, Warwickshire when the first fire crews arrived.

Detectives investigating the cause of the blaze are treating it as suspicious.

Mr Holland will be a key speaker at a fire safety conference taking place at the QE2 Conference Centre in London on Wednesday.