beechmere fire 4 - sprinklers

Councils across Cheshire are being asked to back the Fire Authority’s call for sprinklers to be mandatory in some buildings such as schools, care homes and apartment blocks, writes Belinda Ryan.

Chief fire officer Mark Cashin praised Cheshire Fire Authority (CFA) members for their work on promoting the need for sprinklers but said it was imperative the message was heard by those with the power to legislate.

“We are the most sprinkler covered county in the country when it comes to tower blocks,” he said at a fire authority meeting, adding that 17 out of 21 had sprinklers.

“It makes a massive safety difference to all our residents but to our firefighters as well, a huge difference.”

He added he knew he was getting on his soapbox again “but actually we’re talking about people’s lives”.

CFA is urging the four unitary councils to explore local policy options to promote and secure the fitting of sprinklers in a number of building types when they are built, or when they are refurbished.

It also wants councils to write to the Secretary of State and local MPs to promote changes to the law to require sprinklers in at least some types of buildings including, but not restricted to, care homes and schools.

And CFA wants councils to write to the Secretary of State to request the requirement for sprinklers in schools is strengthened rather than removed.

Warrington Borough Council has already agreed to all of the above when the motion was put forward at a recent meeting of its full council.

Cheshire East, Cheshire West & Chester and Halton councils are expected to discuss the same motion at forthcoming meetings.

Cllr Brian Gallagher (Warrington, Lab) said: “It has been moved at Warrington and we see it that if the other three unitaries [councils] move it then it’s a progressive move forward that will give us leverage to go the Secretary of State and actually try to get them to impose legislation.”

Cllr Rachel Bailey (CEC, Con) said: “To me this is about bringing forward local legislation in our areas to support those key and vulnerable buildings that our firefighters attend and safeguard.”

She added it was timely this had come to the fire authority just days after the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Five years ago, 72 people died in the Grenfell fire in London. The building did not have sprinklers.

Cllr Bailey also noted it was almost three years since the Beechmere care home fire in Crewe.

Around 150 elderly and disabled residents were evacuated by firefighters and neighbours when fire ripped through the residential complex on an August afternoon in 2019.

The timber-framed building did not have sprinklers.

Cllr Stef Nelson (Halton, Lab) said some people say sprinklers do work, some say they don’t.

“The fact is nobody’s died in a fire where there’s been sprinklers installed,” he said.

He added it was very important they were installed in schools and he had seen the devastation caused when a school is destroyed by fire.

“I’ve seen families crying because their children were having to be dispersed all over the place,” he said.

“We need to get people talking positive about sprinklers because they’re not like they used to be years ago when they flooded places.”

A report to the meeting stated there is a one in 16 million chance that a sprinkler will discharge due to a manufacturing defect.

The motion from the CFA is due to be discussed at CWAC’s next full council meeting in July.

Cheshire East councillor Nick Mannion (Lab) said he hoped it would be on the agenda for next month’s CEC meeting.

It is also expected to be discussed at Halton in the near future.

sprinklers - Beechmere Aftermath - building regulations
Beechmere aftermath

One Comment

  1. Haydn Thomas says:

    Cllr Stef Nelson (Halton, Lab) said “The fact is nobody’s died in a fire where there’s been sprinklers installed.”

    Unfortunately that statement is not correct as sprinklers are only activated at high temperatures by which time a person in the fire will have suffered considerable damage from burns and to their airways.

    In a study of all primary fires between 2013-18, 192,094 fires occurred in all buildings including those without sprinklers and there were 1,462 fatalities.
    Fies were recorded in 3,046 buildings, where sprinklers were present and the sprinklers were activated in 1300 – of these 1300 fires, there were 156 recorded casualties, including five fatalities occurred in premises where a fixed sprinkler system was present.

    While there is a significant reduction in the level of risk to a resident / occupant of a sprinkler protected building, therefore, there is no 100% guarantee that protection will be afforded, and the councillor should get his facts correct before issuing misleading information.

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