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London recycling factory: 23/12/15


Sprinkler Save in Cheshire Street, East London on 23rd December 2015.

At about 19:00 hours on the 23rd December crews from Tower Hamlets were called to a fire within a commercial industrial unit of one floor and mezzanine, measuring 50 metres by 35 metres.

The company who owns the building produces rags from recycled linen. The rags are cleaned, pressed and packed into bales prior to distribution.

The room of fire origin contained up to 60 tonnes of packed linen bales stored several metres high and contained the last bales to have been processed. The room was covered by CCTV and a working sprinkler system and had adequate fire compartmentation from the remainder of the premises. AFD system fitted within the premises however there was no Smoke Detection fitted in the area of fire origin.

The sprinkler system is fitted throughout building and was working throughout fire.

The building was made secure by the business manager at approximately 13:00 hours. Prior to locking up all electrical appliances were apparently disconnected. CCTV observed by Fire Investigation, showed smoke in the room of origin at approximately 16:10 hours. The first call to the LFB was at 19:05 hours.

Initial Breathing Apparatus crews gained access to the building using forced entry equipment and commenced fire fighting operations. The sprinkler system had actuated and was containing the fire. The fire had progressed to the rear of the bails, presenting fire fighters with a challenging scene due to the stability of the stored material, access to the bails and the ability for the material to sustain a smoulder for a long period of time. Access was gained by a FRU crew via an alternative roller shutter door affording better access to the area of origin.

The sprinklers controlled the fire and prevented it from developing, however an important point to be noted was that due to the bales of rages being stacked so high, the water from the sprinkler system simply caused them to become wet and topple over making access to firefighting difficult and producing a very cool smoky fire, thus the incident ended up at a 15 pump fire for BA wearers and due to the volume of material to be extinguished and removed.

This incident clearly provides evidence towards the importance of not storing items or materials too close to sprinkler heads and correctly storing goods in racking wherever possible. If AFD had been fitted within the room of fire origin and/ or the sprinkler system connected to the fire alarm system, the first call to the LFB would have also been a lot earlier.


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