Firefighters call for sprinklers in schools after sharp rise in fires

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School fires in London have risen by more than a third in one year, according to new figures from the London Fire Brigade.

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A fire destroyed most of the Thomas Fairchild school in east London in July 2009

The statistics for fires in non-residential buildings between 2009-2017 show that there were a total of 90 fires in pre-schools, nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools in 2017, up from 67 in 2016, equivalent to a 34 per cent rise.

The Brigade’s latest Fire Facts report ( released this week, shows fires at educational buildings, including colleges and universities, have increased from 20 to 28 in the same period.

The London Fire Brigade has called for sprinklers to be made compulsory in all new school builds, and for all schools to be retrofitted with sprinklers during major refurbishments. This has been mandatory in Scotland since 2010.
 
Last year 184 London schools ignored the Brigade’s advice to have sprinklers fitted as part of their refurbishment or building plans, according to the data.

The Brigade said sprinklers are especially important during the summer holidays when buildings are empty and fires can smoulder undetected.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said, ‘The Government should do their homework and realise that millions of pounds are wasted every year repairing fire damage in London’s schools when sprinklers could have prevented the spread of fire.
 
‘This is not just about saving money; when a school is closed it disrupts a child’s education and affects parents by closing breakfast and after-school clubs.
 
‘Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. They save lives and protect property. While I ultimately want all schools to have sprinklers, the easiest time is to fit them are when schools are being built or refurbished and I find it staggering that such a simple safety measure is so easily omitted from the designs.’
 
The latest call for action on sprinklers in schools coincides with the anniversaries of two major fires at educational establishments in London.
 
On 29 July 2002, 20 fire engines were called to a large fire at a college in Ealing Green, Ealing.

Seven years later, on 30 July 2009, most of the Thomas Fairchild primary school in Hoxton, east London, was destroyed by fire.

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