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Belgium to issue a sprinkler postage stamp to mark Innovation fire

The Belgian postal service has announced it will mark the 50th anniversary of the Innovation department store fire

in Brussels, which killed 300 people, by issuing a series of stamps showing different fire safety products. One of the stamps will depict a sprinkler.

The Innovation disaster led to the retrofit of sprinklers in all Belgian shops with a compartment size greater than 2,500 m2.

Swedish Sprinkler Market remains Strong

Sprinklerfrämjandet, the Swedish sprinkler association, has reported the numbers of sprinklers installed in Sweden in 2016.

In total, 540,509 sprinklers were installed, of which 32,436, or 6%, were residential. This graph of sprinkler sales since 1980 shows that the market has grown five times since then

Green light for first French residential sprinkler system

It has taken more than a decade but today approval was given for the first residential sprinkler system in France.

The system will be installed in a converted wing of a hospital in Nerac, southwest France, which is to become a residential care home. Congratulations to Youcef Ouammou, who spent many hours to explain the technology to the various agencies involved in approving this first system! He was strongly supported by representatives of the local fire service. The project is expected to go for tender in the near future. Several other French residential sprinkler projects are also under consideration and Nerac will act as a useful precedent.

Sprinkler save at London Bridge Underground station

London Fire Brigade reports that it was called yesterday, 31st January, at 11:45 to a fire at London Bridge Underground station.

On arrival, firefighters found that a fire had started in the motor of an escalator and had been controlled to a small fire by the specially-designed sprinkler system. The station had already been evacuated but reopened at 12.35.

Thirty years ago, a fire at King’s Cross Underground station also started in an escalator. That fire killed 31 and injured 100. The lengthy investigation led to many changes, including in operating procedures, materials used, a ban on smoking and the installation of specially-designed sprinkler systems under the escalators.

French Construction Booming

The French Housing Ministry has announced that there were 10.4% more housing starts in 2016 than in 2015 and that planning approvals rose 14.2%.

Most of the growth was in individual houses. At the same time planning approvals for non-residential construction rose 4.2% and by 29.7% for warehouses. 2017 could be a good year for warehouse sprinkler systems in France!

BS 9999:2017 Published

Today BS 9999:2017 was published. This is a code of practice for fire safety in non-residential buildings and includes many incentives to fit sprinklers.

The standard offers longer travel distances, narrower corridors, stairs and exits, reduced fire resistance and reduced spacing between buildings if sprinklers are fitted. It also relaxes the requirements for fire brigade access and for fire-fighting facilities if sprinklers are fitted. BS 9999:2017 is available here: here.

Sprinkler Ban Lifted

A ban on fitting sprinklers in ammonia refrigeration machinery rooms has been lifted.

EN 378-3 has been updated and the 2016 edition removes the ban. This was a success achieved by the collaboration of EFSN members in several countries and could not have been achieved by any one member alone.

EN 378-3:2016 refrigerating systems and heat pumps.Safety and environmental requirements. Installation site and personal protection was written by refrigeration experts. Unfortunately they held misconceptions about how sprinkler systems work and were concerned that a system would operate without a fire and release huge quantities of water onto liquid ammonia. While a cup of water dropped into a bucket of liquid ammonia will release clouds of toxic ammonia, this scenario is unrepresentative of an ammonia refrigeration machinery room protected by sprinklers. In fact sprinklers are needed to help prevent ammonia leaks by controlling any fires that may occur in these rooms.

Insurer members of the EFSN first discovered the ban in EN 378-3 when local authorities began to require their clients to decommission existing sprinkler systems. EFSN members met the chairman and secretariat of the CEN committee which wrote the standard and contacted members of its national mirror committees in several countries. Once the technical arguments were made, most national mirror committees supported a repeal of the ban. Their representatives then corrected the CEN standard.

Recent Sprinkler Saves

Below are brief accounts of recent fires in industrial, commercial and residential buildings, all controlled or extinguished by sprinklers.

Staffordshire Fire & Rescue reports that sprinklers saved a large Amazon warehouse from an arson attack on 13 November. Fires were set in three locations but the sprinkler system controlled them, preventing major damage.

On 10 November fire broke out in a cell complex of the Trajectum forensic hospital in Rekken. The fire was extinguished by the sprinkler system.

On 9 November a successful sprinkler activation occurred in the bin room at Shaftsbury House, a high-rise block in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. A single concealed sidewall head, fed by the town main water supply, operated to extinguished the fire. There was little damage.

At just after 22:00 on 6 November, Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service was called to a fire in a second storey bedroom of a 3-storey house in Rickmansworth. The fire was started by a candle setting fire to curtains. A single sprinkler operated and the fire was out when the fire brigade arrived. Nobody was hurt and damage was estimated at £3,000.

On the night of 4 November the Utrecht Fire Brigade was called to a fire in the Hema distribution centre on the Atoomweg. The sprinkler system extinguished the fire before the fire brigade arrived. The fire is believed to have started in a cardboard shredder. There was limited damage. Lees verder

At 09:00 on 26 October Scottish Fire and Rescue was called to a fire in Williamwood High School in Clarkston, Renfrewshire. On arrival, they discovered a small fire had occurred in a non-teaching area and had been extinguished by the school’s sprinkler system. An East Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “Williamwood High was evacuated on Wednesday morning as a safety precaution, following a minor fire. No one was hurt and students were back in class in under an hour.” Recent data from West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service shows that most school fires occur during the day and that most are accidental.

London Fire Brigade responded at 11:51 on 24 October to a fire in a 5-storey specialised housing scheme of 32 flats in Catesby Street, London. On arrival crews noted that the fire had begun in cardboard in a waste bin and that a single sprinkler head had activated to extinguish it. The fire was believed to have been caused by a cigarette. Damage was minor. The building dates from the 1980s and had been retrofitted with sprinklers.

At 15:09 hours on 20 October, Avon Fire & Rescue Service received a call to a fire in Milsom Street, Bath. The 60m x 40m building comprises a ground floor department store with 1st floor mixed commercial and residential (private flats) and the 2nd and 3rd floor purely residential private flats. There is also a basement area. The fire, which involved a quantity of paper, was on the ground floor in the common area between the department store and the flats. Upon arrival it was noted that a single pendant sprinkler head, located in the common parts, had operated and extinguished the fire. Fire damage was limited to 2m² and business interruption was reported as 2 hours. This incident again shows that ‘Common Parts’ cannot always be considered to be ‘sterile’ and extending sprinkler protection to cover these areas is a sensible precaution.

At 06:30 on 9 October the Amsterdam Fire Brigade was called to a fire in a restaurant in the west pedestrian tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station. The sprinkler system controlled the fire in the extract hood and the fire brigade quickly completed extinguishment. The station was closed for 45 minutes while the smoke was ventilated. Lees verder

Norfolk fire & Rescue Service reports that at 14:20 on 7 October a fire broke out in paper-making machinery at Palm Paper, Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Chief Fire Officer Roy Harold said: “We were called to reports of a fire in a paper bale on a winding drum. The sprinkler system went off and stopped the fire spreading to the rest of the building, but the fire was inside the machinery which was hard to get to. Thermal image cameras were used to check for hot spots.”

Successful Residential Sprinkler Tests in Bayonne

On 29 September a series of fire tests were run in an old apartment building in Bayonne, southwest France.

In the city centre are 500 houses which are more than 200 years old and have a protected status. Unfortunately their design is fundamentally unsafe, with a fire in one apartment able to spread throughout the staircase which forms the only means of escape. In addition, many of the houses are difficult for the fire brigade to access.

Due to their historical significance it is not possible to introduce the compartmentation that current French fire safety regulations require. As an alternative the local fire brigade suggested residential sprinklers. The French laboratory, Efectis, was hired to conduct the tests, which assessed the potential for smoke and heat to spread throughout the building and to what extent a sprinkler system could reduce the risk. The tests came out positive for sprinklers.

Many people came from across France to witness the tests. The EFSN mobile sprinkler demonstration unit was on hand to help explain how sprinklers work. Local press and television ran reports, including this interview with the mayor: Interview with Mayor.

The installer, CLF-Satrem, also produced this video with more technical details: Bayonne fire tests

Fire In University Clinic in Bochum Kills Two

German media report that a fire in the Bergmannsheil University Hospital in Bochum has killed two people and injured many more

, of whom seven seriously. The fire was reported at 02:30 on 30 September and is believed to have been set by a 69-year-old patient who tried to commit suicide. The fire spread from the sixth floor to the seventh, eighth and roof level and burned for eight hours. 165 fire-fighters attended. Of the 180 patients 80 were moved to other hospitals and 100 were discharged early. The hospital is currently not accepting patients and all operations have been cancelled.

There was no report of a sprinkler system in the building.