Domestic Sprinkler System saves property :

10:20hrs on Tuesday 3rd April, Great Western Park, Didcot,

Oxfordshire County Council fire appliances from Wallingford, Abingdon and Oxford fire stations were called to a kitchen fire in a second floor flat within the new development at Didcot. The call was raised by an off-duty firefighter who was in the area who heard the fire alarm sounding. Crews wearing breathing apparatus and taking a high-pressure hosereel entered the building. The flat has a domestic sprinkler system which activated and suppressed the fire.

The cause of the fire is being investigated by a specialist fire investigator from the Fire and Rescue service

Safety message: Station Manager Paul Webster Incident commander said thankfully there was no one in the property at the time of the fire but Smoke alarms alerted the rest of the residents in the block of flats and can save lives (by giving early warning in the event of a fire starting). In a property where sprinklers are not installed the fire would have continued to grow until the fire crews attended, whereas in this property the sprinkler system meant that there was in essence a “fire fighter” on standby in the room where the fire broke out, ready to control that fire as soon as the build-up of heat reached a specific set level. A sprinkler system is designed to control the rate of growth of a fire, and therefore restrict its ability to spread. There is no doubt that if the flat had not got a domestic sprinkler system, then the whole flat would have become involved in fire so the level of damage would have been far worse.

Sprinklers Can:

  •  Reduce fire deaths and fire related injuries
  •  Reduce the risk to firefighters
  •  Protect property and heritage
  •  Reduce the effects of arson
  •  Reduce the environmental impact of fire
  •  Reduce the cost and disruption to the community and business.

Sprinklers activate when a certain level of heat is detected at ceiling level. The sprinklers then douse the fire with water localised to the immediate vicinity of the fire and restrict its ability to spread. Only the sprinkler heads within close proximity to the fire will be activated, meaning water will only be released in the places directly affected by the fire.

In this incident there was a second sprinkler head within the kitchen, only 3 metres away from the one that did activate, and because the 1st one was controlling the growth of the fire, the second one did not need to activate. It is vital to make people aware that sprinklers do not operate all at once as portrayed in the movies.

Equally, they are not linked to the smoke detectors in the property, so if the detectors activate because of a “false alarm”, the sprinklers will not commence discharging water. Their un-doubtable life and property saving benefits are recognised by building regulators, the Fire and Rescue Service and the general public. Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service strongly supports the installation of sprinklers in both domestic and commercial premises.

Chris Wilson BSc, MIFireE, FRSPH
Station Manager
Fire Protection & Business Support Team
Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service
Command Headquarters
Kidlington
Oxfordshire
OX5 2DU