Hampshire fire chief calls for sprinklers to be fitted in every high-rise block

Hampshire's chief fire officer Dave Curry    Picture: Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Hampshire's chief fire officer Dave Curry Picture: Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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HAMPSHIRE’S chief fire officer has called for sprinklers to be installed in all high-rise buildings.

Dave Curry said owners and landlords must take action to make flats safe for residents.

His comments came in the wake of last week’s Grenfell Tower fire, in which 79 people have either been confirmed dead or missing.

Mr Curry paid tribute to the emergency services and victims of last week’s disaster.

He said: ‘Time and again, sprinklers have been proven to prevent the spread of fire in buildings and drastically reduce the threat to life.

‘If these flats are built and maintained properly, they are a very safe place to live.’

He said the fire service would be talking directly to residents in high-rise blocks about fire safety and what to do in case of an evacuation.

He also promised residents who contacted the fire service with concerns that officers would visit their home to speak to them.

Mr Curry’s words also followed the death of two firefighters during a blaze at Southampton’s Shirley Towers in 2010.

At the inquest following the fire, the coroner recommended the fitting of sprinklers in all high-rise blocks, an issue Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has been campaigning on since then.

Asked why the changes had not happened, Mr Curry said: ‘We have worked hard through the years to try and achieve these changes.

‘We now, through the most tragic and awful circumstances, have another incident where fire safety is at the front of the public’s mind.

‘Sprinklers are like having a firefighter in every room, and you can’t be any safer than that.

‘If another problem occurs in the flat then the sprinkler will be the ultimate protection.

‘I want a commitment, at some point in the future, to have sprinklers fitted in all high-rise accommodation.

‘There may be difficulties along that road, but I believe if all the parties gather together with that clear commitment, we can overcome the issues we have had speaking to people throughout those years, and see progress being made.’

In a 2012 statement, the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority said it would encourage flat owners to install sprinklers where there was ‘a case for doing so’, such as risks to people, or where there was a clear business case in terms of cost and benefit.

It also recommended that other new buildings such as schools should have sprinkler systems put in.

Mr Curry said: ‘I believe the fire service is ready to play its part in discussions to see this objective being achieved.

‘I think we deserve to have firefighters increase their safety, and the public need us to make this commitment right now.’

He said initial discussions had been held with councils and flat owners to reassure residents of their safety.

A total of 40 fire engines and more than 200 firefighters tackled the Grenfell Tower blaze.