Lowestoft MP’s sprinkler fire safety call

A call has been made in Parliament for sprinklers to be fitted in all new homes and buildings to prevent a repeat of the devastating Wessex Foods factory blaze in Lowestoft.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has demanded the government take action to prevent fires from claiming lives, especially of the elderly, and causing people to lose jobs after businesses and companies affected by blazes are forced to close or shed their workforce.

In a debate on Tuesday in the House of Commons, Mr Aldous said sprinklers should also be fitted to all new buildings as fire service budgets are coming under increasing pressure and there is a problem recruiting retained firefighters.

In England, buildings more than 20,000 sq m in size have to have sprinklers by law and only in Wales do new homes have to have sprinklers.

Mr Aldous wants to make it mandatory for sprinklers to be fitted following the destruction of the Wessex Foods 5,000 sq m factory during a blaze on the South Lowestoft Industrial Estate in July last year. Because of the fire 150 people lost their jobs.

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A report from the Business Sprinkler Alliance has said the blaze could have been 'wholly avoidable' if the building had been fitted with a sprinkler system. Mr Aldous said: 'The impact on the local community was profound. A factory that had been in operation for 30 years has now been permanently closed and razed to the ground and 150 people have lost their jobs. Despite the size of the building, at approximately 5,000 sq m, and the use to which it was put, sprinklers had not been fitted.

'If they had been the outcome would have been completely different.'

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Mr Aldous also said elderly people would benefit if new homes had sprinklers installed. He said: 'People are living longer and older people are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of fire. They may not be able to evacuate as quickly as young people.'

Mr Aldous added: 'Firefighters do a great job, often in hazardous and dangerous circumstances.

'We owe it to them to reduce risk as far as reasonable possible. With fire service budgets and resources coming under increasing pressure, it is important to focus on measures that make their jobs easier.

'As work patterns change, recruitment of retained firefighters is becoming more difficult. We thus need to ensure that we reduce the risk of major incidents wherever possible.'


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