Buildings with car parks should be reassessed for fire safety

25 September 2018

A report by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service suggests that a devastating fire in a multi-storey car park could have been controlled if a sprinkler system had been installed.

Obtained by Inside Housing magazine, the report says that the Kings Dock fire in a building adjacent to Liverpool's Echo Arena on 31 December last year, which caused the destruction of some 1400 cars, would not have spread as quickly as it did if sprinklers had been installed. They would have delayed “fire development and prevent fire spread to multiple vehicles before the attendance of the Fire and Rescue Service”.

The fire started in a vehicle in the open-sided car park and engulfed the structure. There is currently no requirement for sprinklers to be fitted despite evidence that they can help limit the spread of fast moving conflagrations.

The report says that "CCTV footage shows that the fire started in a vehicle on level 3. Attending fire crews reported rapid lateral fire spread, running fuel fires, vertical fire spread from level of origin and a 'waterfall' of fire from the ceiling of level 3. It was initially thought that fire spread was via the central ramps, but upon further investigation it is considered that the drainage system was the likely cause of vertical fire spread."

The Kings Dock car park was a 8-level structure built in 2007.

The report's observations and recommendations says, "Sprinklers are effective in both controlling a developing and fully developed fire. Without sprinklers fire is likely to spread from car to car and dangerous levels of smoke are likely for long periods (BD2552 p.46). Designers should seriously consider sprinkler provision to avoid multiple vehicle fires, resulting in huge insurable losses and the possible loss of life."

The report also says, "In the Kings Dock car park incident crews reported that additional vehicles became involved 'every 30 seconds'... Sprinklers will delay fire development and prevent fire spread to multiple vehicles before the attendance of the Fire and Rescue Service. Early firefighting intervention, or automatic suppression is imperative to controlling fire spread."

Original source
Inside Housing