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How Sprinklers Saved a Warehouse

Iain Cox, Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance, explains how an automatic sprinkler system in a warehouse in Leicestershire in England helping the fire service extinguish a fire and prevent further damage.

A fire broke out in the storage area of warehouse premises in Hudson Way, Magna Park at 9:30pm on Thursday, March 16th with four crews from the Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service called to attend.

The fire started in the storage rack system, but because the premises had sprinklers fitted the fire was contained. Therefore, what could have been a very large fire was in fact over quite quickly and was only a minor inconvenience.

The incident may be compared to a blaze at an unsprinklered, carpet warehouse on the Hoo Farm Industrial Estate in Kidderminster in December 2021 which had a very different outcome, requiring more than 80 firefighters and 20 fire appliances from the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service, which caused significant disruption to local businesses, road closures and forced the temporary closure of schools and a local college. While no one was injured, the business faces an uncertain future as it sought to relocate, employees face job relocations and environmental health is threatened.

Fire incidents tell us a lot about the challenges of such concentrated amounts of combustible storage, and the challenges to firefighting by the fire service to contain them without the early intervention of systems like sprinklers.

The contrast between two buildings with and without a sprinkler system in a fire can be quite stark. In the event of fire, many businesses with sprinkler systems suffer a minor interruption and find they’re back up-and-running in a matter of hours. Those without can see five-to-six times the damage and suffer longer spells of interruption.

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Iain Cox

Iain Cox is Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA), the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NSFN) and the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council. Iain retired from the Fire Service in June 2013 after 34 years, the last ten of which he served as Chief Fire Officer of Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service. From 2009 to 2011 he was a Board member of the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) with responsibilities for Prevention and Protection. He was awarded the Queen’s Fire Service medal in 2009. He holds a BSc in Physical Geography from the University of Reading and an MA in Management from Coventry University.

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