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Yet again we read of a tragedy that could potentially have been avoided or at least considerably lessened by the presence of a sprinkler system! This time the location was the city of Liverpool, and the Echo Arena multi storey car park was the site of the catastrophic blaze. It was New Years Eve 2017, and as four thousand people watched the Liverpool International Horse Show in the venue, a fire broke out in it’s car park, destroying 1,400 vehicles. The fire is believed to have started in an old Land Rover spreading rapidly to other vehicles, and ex Liverpool FC and England footballer Mark Wright and his wife helped to raise the alarm after spotting the flames.
Chief fire officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Dan Stephens said “Had the car park had sprinklers that would certainly have acted to suppress the fire. It may well even have extinguished the fire. Had the car park had sprinklers that would certainly have given us a far better chance to get sufficient water on the fire to put it out. But beyond a certain point . . . the heat release rate from vehicles is such that we just didn’t have access to the water to put it out.”
Incredibly, car parks are exempt from having sprinkler systems, but this is based on outdated 50 year old research. In 2009, the Building Research Establishment reported that in this situation, the effectiveness of sprinklers in limiting the spread of fire to more than one car had been demonstrated. However in 2015, the same body concluded in a government funded project, that installing sprinkler systems in multi storey car parks was not cost effective, after looking at evidence from the 1960’s.
Cars nowadays are more likely to ignite for a number of reasons such as having larger engines, and containing more combustible materials. According to an industry expert, insurance companies are expecting claims of more than £2 million, which could rise to £10 million. Liverpool residents were praised by authorities, for their kindness in offering help and accommodation to those affected.
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