Sprinklers save Shropshire store

Sprinklers are the answer for business fire safety say Fire officer Dave Bartlett and Shropshire Homebase manager Adrian Price
3rd June, 2009

Sprinklers saved a Shropshire DIY store from burning to the ground in a midnight arson attack, a senior fire officer revealed today.

Oswestry's Homebase suffered minimal stock damage after the store's sprinkler system was triggered when fireraisers deliberately set fire to wooden garden furniture inside a temporary store last month. (April 30) The blaze quickly spread through metal clad walls igniting mattresses and other goods inside the main building.

The damage would have been "much worse" without the intervention of the sprinkler system, said Dave Bartlett, fire safety Inspection Team Manager for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

"This is firm evidence that fitting sprinkler systems into commercial and residential buildings has huge benefits in saving lives and protecting property. Without the sprinkler system, it is very likely that damage would have been much worse possibly leading to a loss of trading and incurring substantial costs to the company."

Most businesses never recover after a major fire, said Mr Bartlett, who is urging other firms and owners of public buildings to install sprinklers which are between one and two per cent of the total cost of a new or refurbished property.

"Myths about sprinkler systems need to be dispelled such as the belief that all the heads in a building will operate at the same time. In the Oswestry store, only one sprinkler was activated causing little damage to stock or building and leaving only a little water on the floor.

"There are also widely held concerns that having a sprinkler system installed in either commercial or domestic properties will lead to water damage. The chances of winning the National Lottery are greater than an accidental discharge of water from a properly maintained sprinkler system," added Mr Bartlett.

Adrian Price, manager of the Homebase store in Penda Retail Park said that they stocked many flammable materials such as paint, white spirit and timber products.

"I would urge all businesses to ensure that their property is properly protected from fire with sprinklers. Without them the damage at Homebase would have been much worse. We are very grateful to the Fire Service for their support." said Mr Price, who re-opened his Homebase store to shoppers at 11am the following day.

Only the very largest commercial storage and retail buildings are required by law to fit sprinklers but Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is campaigning for all businesses to consider fitting sprinklers to improve people's safety and their chances of business recovery after a fire, added Mr Bartlett.