'Daventry warehouse fire could have been avoided by fitting sprinklers'

Councillor AndreGonzalez De Savage tweeted this picture of the aftermath of the blaze
Councillor AndreGonzalez De Savage tweeted this picture of the aftermath of the blaze

The fire at a Daventry industrial estate which wiped out an entire high bay warehouse could have been avoided had it been fitted with sprinklers.

That is the opinion of Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage, Northamptonshire County Council's cabinet member for public protection and chairman of the Fire and Rescue Authority.

Northamptonshire Fire released drone footage of the inferno

Northamptonshire Fire released drone footage of the inferno

VIDEO: Astonishing drone footage shows fire blazing at Daventry warehouse inferno
As a result of the fire, the Gardman warehouse in Parsons Road, Daventry, on the Drayton Fields industrial estate, is being demolished, though firefighters were able to save the office building adjacent to the depot.

“The whole incident could have been put out if they had been fitted,” said Cllr Gonzalez De Savage, who pushed for sprinklers to be installed at the council’s new headquarters at Angel Square.

“I think it’s irresponsible for a new development to not have them when they can be afforded.”

Gardman announced it was moving to the Daventry site last February, and the warehouse has only been open for a matter of months.

Cllr Gonzalez De Savage hopes the demolition of the warehouse won't discourage Gardman from remaining in the county, because he is keen to promote and retain businesses in Northamptonshire.

It is estimated the fire destroyed around £20 million worth of stock, while the building itself costs around £30 million to build.

The price to fit sprinklers is around one per cent of the value of a development, though that can fluctuate.

“There is no legislation forcing them to install sprinklers, but it shouldn’t require legislation - even though it would help," said Cllr Gonzalez De Savage.

“It’s about protecting people and protecting business.

“We shouldn’t allow this to happen in this day and age.”

Echoing Cllr Gonzalez De Savage's view is Iain Cox, the chairman of the Business Sprinkler Alliance who aim to lobby the Government to improve fire regulations and educate business owners on the benefits of installing sprinkler systems.

Mr Cox believes that in light of last summer's Grenfell Tower tragedy, there is heightened public interest in fire safety.

"The tragedy has concentrated people's minds on fire safety, but unfortunately people think it's fine for a building to burn if people get out alive.

"I don't think we should be building any building to burn."

"My worry is we become complacent about fire," he added.

Mr Cox champions the use of sprinklers because they get water to a fire immediately, unlike firefighters whose actions in tackling a blaze require careful pre-planning.

He said statistics show that although fires are less common nowadays, particularly commercial ones, the cost to businesses is higher.

An option for companies is to retrofit sprinklers to their sites. "It costs less than people think," said Mr Cox.

Yesterday marked the end of Sprinkler Week 2018 which was launched by the National Fire Chiefs’ Council on Monday to demonstrate the benefits of sprinklers and call for a legislative change around their use.

NFRS Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey said: “Sprinklers save lives and reduce injuries. They also protect firefighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to property and the environment from a fire."