Glasgow School of Art fire suppression system was just ‘weeks’ from activation

The June fire that destroyed the Glasgow School of Art for a final time was weeks away from being prevented, according to the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association. The unassembled pumps and other final elements of the sprinkler system had been delivered to site the day before the blaze started in preparation for installation, connection to water tanks and commissioning.

The fire, on Friday 15th June, was the second major fire at the building in four years and the extent of the damage will now result in the site, which had been partially restored and renovated, being demolished. Large areas surrounding the former college are still cordoned off for fear of falling masonry.

Smoke ventilation system at Grenfell failed eight days prior to fire

The public inquiry into the Grenfell tower disaster, which claimed 71 lives in June 2017, has revealed that the building’s smoke ventilation system had been recorded as having failed just eight days before the fire. After JS Wright had identified the issue during routine aftercare on Tuesday 6th June, a quote for an emergency repair of the system had been issued and ignored on the afternoon of Monday 12th June, less than 36 hours before the blaze began in the early hours of the Wednesday.

Dr Barbara Lane, a fire engineer involved with the inquiry, revealed that “had the smoke control system operated correctly and the fire service been able to take control, they might have used the system to sequentially vent smoke from the lobbies on each floor of Grenfell Tower.”

Lincolnshire hospital trust to provide £46m for fire upgrades

The United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust have announced they are to release £46m over the next three years for extensive fire safety improvements in three of the borough’s hospitals. Works are being prioritised at Boston Pilgrim Hospital, Grantham Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital after a series of small electrical fires at the sites led to the issuing of enforcement notices and an action plan.

A spokesperson for the trust confirmed that “some of the improvements we’re making include increased staff training and putting in fire prevention systems, including modernising and upgrading our fire alarm systems, improving our fire doors and enhancing fire barriers around the hospitals.”

Further tower blocks fail fire safety tests

Six further blocks of flats have fallen short of fire safety standards after previously being deemed safe in initial tests conducted in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. The flats, situated around Cardiff, have now been found to have combustible cladding after having been originally classified safe last year.

Cardiff council are now working alongside South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to undertake emergency renovation works to remove existing cladding, fit new fire doors and install a completely new sprinkler system.

Hospice admits deaths of three due to fire safety breaches

The chair of St Michael’s Hospice in East Sussex is “truly sorry for the pain and anguish caused” after admitting culpability for the deaths of three people in 2015 due to inadequate fire safety precautions after an arson attack in the building was not sufficiently contained.

The hospice is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to one of the indictments brought against them in proceedings raised by the East Sussex Fire Authority. A total of 22 people including staff members were present in the building and at risk when the incident occurred, after which the hospice has completely overhauled its fire protection system.

Major changes ahead as Government prepare to get tough over fire safety

Housing Ministry director Offer Stern-Weiner has written a letter to local authorities confirming plans to tighten building regulations in regard to fire safety after existing standards were deemed “not fit for purpose” in an official review. In particular more power of veto will be given to the relevant fire and rescue authority who will be required to pass any plans prior to building.

As a final report from consulting engineer Judith Hackitt is due to be released soon, alongside a government revision of the ‘Approved Document B’ compliance instructions for planners, industry-wide changes will be expected to the way fire safety regulations are incorporated into future projects.

Schoolboy develops innovative new fire safety technology

The future of the fire industry may have been revolutionised thanks to a 14 year-old North London schoolboy named Baran Korkmaz. His smartphone app IMAREC, recently garlanded at the British Invention Show, uses augmented reality and GPS technology to direct users to fire exits, call points and extinguishers in a given building.

The teenage inventor continues to work on the project, developing new features allowing accurate location data and camera footage to be streamed directly from the user’s smartphone to the emergency services in event of a fire, and is pursuing a business partnership to help roll out a completed version of IMAREC across the fire industry by the end of the decade.

“Shockingly cavalier” attitude to fire safety in schools

A letter addressed to Education Secretary Damian Hinds, written by the Fire Brigades Union in association with the National Education Union, has offered a damning condemnation of the British government’s de-emphasising of fire safety in new build schools. In contrast to those built in Scotland and Wales, which by law must have sprinklers fitted, only 35% of new schools built in England and Northern Ireland contain sprinkler systems to minimise.

New schools without sprinkler systems include Selsey Academy in West Sussex, which is being rebuilt after being burned down two years ago, and Kensington Aldridge Academy, which sits underneath the Grenfell Tower that remains gutted after the tragic 2017 fire. Andy Dark of the Fire Brigade union insists that “the cost of fitting sprinklers represents a very low investment when weighed against the potential threat to life, the damage to buildings and the disruption of children’s education if there is a fire in a school. It is essential that the government act immediately to make it a legal requirement for sprinklers to be fitted in all new school buildings.”

York hotel fined £110,000 for inadequate fire alarm system

The company running the Grade II-listed Lamb And Lion hotel in Petergate, York have been fined a six-figure sum after its fire alarm system was found to be out of order. Sloping Tactic Limited have been ordered to pay £110,000 (plus additional court costs in excess of £3,000) after continuing to operate after the building’s fire alarm system had been condemned.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service had served prohibition and enforcement notices valid until a new system had been installed.

157 social housing towers still identified “dangerous”

According to a report in yesterday’s Guardian, only three out of the 160 towers initially identified as “dangerous” in the wake of the Grenfell tower disaster have been reclad, which in addition to the 150 further blocks classified in the intervening months means that almost 300, housing a sum of tenants into five figures, are assumed to be breaching building fire safety regulations.

Since the disaster on 14th June 2017, which claimed 71 lives, the housing secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that 36 councils are in the process of applying for funding for recladding and new sprinkler systems, yet only 26 buildings to date have completed or begun works. Lord Porter, chairman of the Local Government Association, has insisted the current government “meet the unexpected exceptional costs” of commissioning the work.