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of the British Broadcasting Corporation

 

 

Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 10:59 GMT
Fire rules 'need urgent review'


The Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) is calling for a sweeping review of UK commercial building regulations.

Steve McGuirk, CFOA president, said urgent action was "right and proper" following the deaths of four firemen at a Warwickshire warehouse on 2 November.

He said the use of sprinklers, in particular, should be reviewed to see if lives and property could be saved.

Currently, only warehouses more than 20,000 sq m in size legally need to have sprinklers fitted.

Fire summit

But other commercial premises such as shops and supermarkets must fit sprinklers if they are more than 2,000 sq m.
(The current regulations) could well include the provision of an automatic fire suppression system, such as sprinklers, where it is justified by the risk
Department of Communities and Local Government

Mr McGuirk said recent events "should be used to take stock of the effectiveness of the current regulations and to reassess the role of fire suppressions system in keeping buildings and people safe, including firefighters".

Following the fatal blaze in Atherstone on Stour, the chief fire officer for Lancashire, Peter Holland, called for all warehouses, regardless of size, to install sprinklers.

Mr Holland said the firefighters' lives might have been saved if they had been in place.

The issue will be debated by fire chiefs, MPs and others at the first Fire Summit being held in London on Wednesday.

The summit will also look at the role of construction materials and methods in fire prevention, as well as fire and rescue tactics and firefighter safety.

Ensuring safety

The Department of Communities and Local Government said the investigation into the Warwickshire warehouse fire needed to be completed before any decisions were made on rule changes.

But a spokeswoman said current regulations applying to warehouses and other non-domestic buildings already required those responsible for the premises to take fire precautions to ensure the safety of occupants.

"This could well include the provision of an automatic fire suppression system, such as sprinklers, where it is justified by the risk," she added.

On Tuesday five bodies were found in the debris of a house in Northern Ireland destroyed in a fire.

Arthur McElhill, his partner Lorraine McGovern and their five children lived in the end-terraced property at in Omagh, County Tyrone.