This page has a selection of short pieces about fire incidents where sprinkler systems prevented a more serious outcome.
A family who were trapped by fire in their tenth-floor flat owe their lives to sprinklers 12 April 2023
Flames doused as fire traps three in tenth-floor flat
Around 25 firefighters responded to the Birmingham high-rise shortly after 2am in the early hours of this morning (Wednesday 12 April).
As the crews made their way to the scene, and smoke started to fill their home, the family were given fire survival guidance over the phone by Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control.
When the crews arrived at Salisbury Tower in Middleway View, Ladywood - just three minutes after being mobilised - the fire was already out, thanks to water sprinklers drenching the flames.
Simon Barry, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS), said: “Sprinklers save lives - as this incident very clearly demonstrates. It could have ended tragically had the council-fitted system not kicked in.
“Sprinklers are invaluable. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who respond to fires, and reduce the amount of fire damage to property and the environment.”
Four fire engines, a 4x4 Brigade Response Vehicle and an aerial platform attended the scene.
A man, a woman and a toddler were led to safety by firefighters, before being taken to hospital for checks after breathing in smoke.
It is the believed that the fire was started by an electric bike, left on charge in the hallway of their flat.
The flames cut off the family’s only escape route.
Added DCFO Barry: “Without the sprinklers, the family could have been very seriously injured or worse.
“The fire blocked their only way out. The bike battery produced a lot of smoke and fumes, which quickly spread through the flat.
“Very fortunately, the sprinkler system did its job. One of the sprinkler ‘heads’ was fitted very close to where the bike was being charged, so the flames were quickly extinguished.”
People have a much higher chance of surviving a fire in the home if sprinklers are fitted.
WMFS has previously welcomed the decision taken by several West Midlands councils to retrofit sprinklers across their high-rise tower blocks.
Research by the National Fire Chiefs Council showed that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions and help keep people safer in their homes. In converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires.
Blackwall flats kitchen 24th March 2016
At about 9pm on Thursday 24th March 2016, cooking oil in a pan ignited in the kitchen of a 9 storey block of flats in Blackwall, London.
The lady occupier rushed to raise the alarm but even as she was on the phone to the Fire Service the single sprinkler head in the kitchen activated to extinguish the fire.
There was some smoke damage within the kitchen (see picture attached)but no one was injured among the 75 reported residents in the block.
One concern reported is the length of time it took to contact the installer in order to make good the affected head, an issue that building managers should try to expedite as soon as possible.
London Hotel bin store, 25th March 2016
At just after 13:40 on Friday 25th March 2016, London Fire Brigade received a call to a fire in a second floor bin store at a 6 storey hotel in Islington, London. The cause of the fire is being attributed to carelessly discarded smoking materials.
Four pumping appliances were mobilised and upon arrival crews found that a large bin, among a group of four, was involved in fire but that one sprinkler head above the bin had activated and suppressed the fire.
This had prevented fire spread to the other nearby receptacles and possibly beyond.
Fire Service personnel were able to extinguish the fire without difficulty using one hose-reel. Fire damage was confined to about 5m².
The premises were evacuated when the alarm was raised but it is understood that the hotel was fully up and running again after about 1 hour. There was a problem isolating the supply as none of the on-site staff were aware of the
Hillingdon Care home: 25th March 2016
At about 5pm on Friday 25th March a fire involving cooking fat occurred in a staff kitchenette at a 3 storey, 23 bed supported living scheme in Hillingdon.
The flash fire was severe enough to activate the single sprinkler head within the room of origin and this extinguished the fire, limiting damage to about 5m².
Once again however, premises staff were unaware of the isolation procedures for the sprinkler system which led to a delay on shutting off the supply once the fire had been confirmed as out by FRS personnel.
The two FRS crews had left the scene by 18:15 hours
Worsham Mill (JSP Ltd), Worsham, Witney – 18th September 2016
Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service were called to a fire at Worsham Mill, Minster Lovell, at 5:26 am on Sunday 18 September 2016.
Four fire engines from Burford, Witney and Oxford, attended the scene.
Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building and used high pressure hose reels to extinguish the fire and positive pressure fans to ventilate the smoke.
The building was protected by a sprinkler system that activated and contained the fire until the arrival of the fire service.
Only one head was needed to control the blaze.
Without this automatic water suppression system more of the factory, goods and products would have been destroyed thus leaving the company in a vulnerable state.
Incident commander Nathan Crockford said “the quick thinking of their staff helped to reduce the impact of the fire on the business and the activation of the sprinkler system prevented the fire from spreading to other areas of the site".
Ayr department store loading bay save 26th June 2015
Scottish FRS sources report that at just after 5:30pm on Sunday 26th June, a fire occurred in stacked waste cardboard in an enclosed loading bay area at a department store in Ayr High Street.
The 3 storey, steel framed and brick construction building, consists of sales on ground floor and storage of stock on upper floors.
The approximate footprint is 2140m2 x 3 = floor area of 6420m2.
The fire caused on upright sprinkler head on the mains fed sprinkler system to operate and this suppressed the fire so that attending fire crews on the two pump attendance (plus salvage pod) were able to extinguish using only a hose-reel within 11 minutes of arrival.
It is reported that there were 100 persons in the shop at the time of the incident, none of whom were injured. 45 persons are employed at the store.
Although there was some disruption over the next two days, damage was limited to about £1000 with the total stock value at the store being put at £900,000.
Livingston factory sprinkler save 28th June 2015
At 16:59 hours on Tuesday 28th June 2015 a fire occurred in raw plastic material at a factory on the Brucefield Industrial estate in Livingston which recycles materials to produce high quality packaging for the food, technology and medical sectors
The two storey building has offices located on the first floor and a large manufacturing area covering the complete ground floor with a footprint of 35m x 60m.
Construction is of insulated sandwich panels with a corrugated metal roof supported by metal columns.
Scottish FRS mobilised three pumping appliances to the incident and on arrival found that one pendant sprinkler head on the towns mains fed system had operated to suppress the fire and prevent it from spreading.
Breathing apparatus teams used one main jet, one hose-reel and a thermal imaging camera to ensure extinguishment over a 150m²area.
The fire was out in 30 minutes from the arrival of the fire crews.
Nottingham joinery workshop 5th August 2015
At around 15:45 hours on Wednesday 5th August 2015, Nottinghamshire F&RS mobilised two appliances to a report of a fire in a dust extraction unit at a joinery workshop in Catton Road, Arnold, Nottingham.
Upon arrival the fire was located inside the unit but additionally to deploying one hose-reel and one jet to cover the fire, it was noted that the sprinkler system had operated.
Crew manager Zac Goodspeed told Keith Rhodes that upon arrival they found one sprinkler head above the unit had been set off and had prevented the fire from spreading to other plant and materials.
The unit was on fire internally and had badly smoke logged the workshop but, because the fire was contained, fire-fighters were able to extinguish it without too many problems.
Owner Paul Jeffries told Keith that he didn't realise the sprinkler system was live, but that it had saved his premises. His main concern was now fulfilling customer orders.
The sprinkler system is reported to be very old and had not been maintained for more than 15 years.
It runs off the town main but has no means of isolation and so Nationwide were called to isolate the system.
The activation has caused some fractures in pipe-work which the owners seem now willing to deal with and reinstate the whole system.
Fires in wood-working premises often take hold very quickly, resulting in extensive fire spread and damage.
Thankfully, the sprinkler system had prevented this from happening.
Deluge system averts Appleton paper recycling disaster
Conveyor system involved in the fire at Shred-It
A fire at Shred-It on Barleycastle Trading Estate in Appleton on Tuesday 30th June was caused by a conveyor belt overheating.
The damage at the Appleton shredding company was dramatically reduced thanks to them having a deluge fire sprinkler system installed in the machinery.
Keith Brooks, Head of Protection and Prevention: “By the very nature of its business, this factory contains highly combustible products which, if a fire was able to take hold would prove disastrous. Thankfully, the deluge system contained the flames to the machine involved.”
In addition to the deluge system, the company has a sprinkler system installed across the building which is an additional safeguard.
A sprinkler system works by suppressing flames and operates automatically when fire is close to a sprinkler head. The heat breaks the head and releases a spray of water to limit the fire from spreading.
Continued Keith: “This company has taken the very responsible and correct steps to minimise damage from fire, from which companies very rarely recover.
As a Service we are proactive in the promotion of sprinkler systems as they drastically reduce the damage caused by a fire and therefore minimise the disruption and time taken to achieve business continuity.”
Four fire engines, three from Cheshire and one from Greater Manchester, were sent to the fire which was in a unit measuring some 45 metres square.
Firefighters, two wearing breathing apparatus, isolated the electricity supply to the machinery unit and used a hose reel jet to make sure the fire was completely out.
Firefighters remained at the scene to damp down and used a forklift truck to remove paper bales from the affected area.
Also, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service has lead officers in each of the county’s unitary areas who are be able to offer specific advice to businesses.
Sprinklers save logistics warehouse from potentially devastating blaze
WHEN A fire broke out at a food distribution warehouse in Hastings, an automatic sprinkler system activated and extinguished the blaze, duly minimising damage and ensuring that the business would be able to return to operations later that day with little disruption.
On Sunday 4 October at 6.00 am, fire engines and firefighters from the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service were called to the A.F. Blakemore and Son Ltd food distribution warehouse located on Ivyhouse Lane.
A small fire located in a fan unit had been quickly extinguished by the sprinkler system in the 90,000 square foot facility. Had the blaze not been contained it would have caused significant damage to this logistics business which supplies food products to a network of Spar stores across South East England.
Commenting on the episode, a spokesperson from the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service explained: “This is a timely reminder to other companies to invest in a sprinkler system which could serve to protect their business from severe fire damage. A sprinkler system really can make a difference. In 2019, we attended a similar fire locally which resulted in the total loss of the business’ facilities. Sprinklers would have made the difference.”
That business was engineering firm Drallim Industries, based in St Leonards, which is only now returning with new premises some 20 months after the fire completely destroyed its factory.
The fire, last February, meant that the company had to relocate to temporary facilities. In addition to the loss of business and the disruption realised across the local community, the fire necessitated the evacuation of nearby residents and road closures.
“Sprinkler systems are specifically designed to contain a fire, ensuring that businesses are often up-and-running again within a short period of time due to limited damage,” added the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson.
As one of the UK’s leading family-owned food firms, A.F. Blakemore and Son Ltd has ensured that it’s resilient to fire with sprinklers being a key component in the company’s safety strategy.
The spokesperson added: “East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service would like to highlight the importance of such fire safety measures as they deliver benefits that really do far exceed the cost of their installation and maintenance.”
Home Office figures show that the Fire and Rescue Service in England has attended 26,800 fires in industrial and commercial buildings in the past three years alone.
From offices to industrial buildings and healthcare facilities through to hotels, the impact of a major fire can be devastating. Indeed, many businesses never recover.
The cost of fire in industrial and commercial buildings goes far beyond the expense and impacts on individual businesses and insured costs. Fires are the cause of significant economic, environmental and local community costs, many of which are ultimately going to be borne by the taxpayer.
The inclusion of a sprinkler system can prevent major financial and equipment losses, containing what could be a potential disaster and instead turning it into a minor inconvenience. Proven time and again with consistent reliability, the installation of these systems is a small price to pay in order to prevent a business from totally failing.
Commercial Sprinkler Save - Hastings, October 2020
At 06.23hrs on Sunday 4 October 2020, ESFRS received a call to an alarm sounding in a commercial property in Ivyhouse Lane in Hastings.
The premises is a large warehouse occupying approximately 8000m2 operating as a logistics company supplying food and consumables across the country.
The call occurred outside normal operating hours for the business and was, therefore, unoccupied at the time.
The standard attendance of one pumping appliance was mobilised from The Ridge fire station.
On arrival, the alarm was still sounding and the control panel indicated the sprinkler system had activated.
Upon investigation, it was discovered that there had been a small fire in a ceiling-mounted fan unit, which had been extinguished by a neighbouring sprinkler head.
The sprinkler system was isolated in the area of the fire and the remainder reinstated.
The fire had been contained to the fan unit by the sprinkler system with no further damage elsewhere.
The business was able to continue to operate as normal.
Without the intervention of the sprinklers, the fire would have been able to spread within the unoccupied premises, potentially affecting the ability of the business to be able to continue to function.
This business was a key distribution centre for a number of shops both locally and nationally, so the interruption of the supply chain for these other businesses could have had serious knock-on effects.