Fire Sprinkler System Saves Lives

In March 2023, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) responded to an incident that demonstrated the benefits of having a fire sprinkler system installed in a multi-occupied residential property.

At 10.40pm on Sunday, March 26th, crews from Haverfordwest, Milford Haven and Morriston responded to an incident in Steynton, Milford Haven, following an alert from an automated fire alarm system.  It was confirmed that there was a fire in the communal laundry room of a retirement housing complex and while crews were en route to the property, two sprinkler heads actuated which assisted in containing the fire until the crews’ arrival.

On arrival, crews proceeded to extinguish the fire using breathing apparatus sets, safety jets, a hose reel jet and a thermal imaging camera, natural ventilation helped clear smoke.  A total of 67 residents were evacuated from the housing complex with no injuries reported.

This incident is an example of the benefits of installing a fire sprinkler system as the fire was contained to the room of origin which allowed for more time to evacuate the property’s residents, resulting in no injuries and required limited offensive firefighting action by MAWWFRS crews to fully extinguish the fire.  Had the fire sprinkler system not been in place, the outcome could have been very different.

The outcome of this incident is very different to that of a fire in a similar property type in Hertfordshire in April 2017.  A major fire broke out in the early hours of the morning in a residential care home occupied by 35 residents where sprinklers were not fitted.  The fire resulted in extensive damage to the property and required 33 elderly and immobile residents to be rescued by firefighters, three residents required hospital treatment for burns and smoke inhalation, with two residents sadly dying as a result of the fire.

MAWWFRS Head of Fire Safety, Siôn Slaymaker, said:

“The incident at this retirement complex in Milford Haven demonstrates the value of automated fire sprinkler systems, the comparison to the Hertfordshire incident highlights how differently the outcome of this fire could have been.  These systems suppress or extinguish fires in the early stages of fire development which improves occupant safety, allows additional time for fire crews to assess the incidents they attend and reduces the risk to firefighters undertaking subsequent firefighting actions.”

It is generally accepted that sprinkler systems reduce death and injury from fire, reduce the risks to firefighters and reduce the environmental impact of fire.

Fire Sprinklers Legislation in Wales

Since January 2016, all new and converted houses and flats in Wales must have fire sprinkler systems installed, under the Welsh Government’s Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure 2011. 

This regulation only applies to domestic or residential buildings, and not buildings used for commercial purposes.

Extent of fire damage caused to Newgrange Care Home in 2017. Image by Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.