Update: Fire crews in Downham Market could move in with police after fire station blaze

The aftermath of the fire at Downham Market Fire Station. Picture: Ian Burt

The aftermath of the fire at Downham Market Fire Station. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Fire crews could join forces with the police in one building in Downham Market after their station was burned down.

Retained firefighters were back in business yesterday, as investigations continue into the blaze which destroyed the town's fire station and a year-old fire engine and all of its equipment.

The Downham Market crew had rushed to a 'shout' at about 12.10am to find their fire station ablaze. Eight fire crews from West Norfolk and neighbouring Cambridgeshire attended the fire, which appeared to have started in or near the fire appliance.

A spokesman for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that it had contacted the manufacturer of the destroyed fire engine as a matter of routine, to check if there were any faults with it.

• Video and photo gallery: Firefighters at fire hit station back in business, as it is revealed building did not have sprinklers fitted

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It has also emerged that the station did not have a sprinkler system, although neighbouring forces in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire confirmed that only new stations were fitted with the systems.

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A spokesman for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service said: 'The state of what remains of the building is being assessed. It is likely to be some time before a decision on what should happen next is taken. 'Current estimates on a replacement like for like fire station is about £1.5m, plus the cost of the replacement appliance (worth about £250,000 including equipment).'

Downham fire crews are temporarily based at the neighbouring police station, and a fire service spokesman said: 'This incident has highlighted to us the close working between the fire service and police service and as neighbours we would not want to miss any opportunity to work more closely together and share property where this saves money and improves joint working between the services.'

Meanwhile, a board in the fire station with the names of different generations of Downham Market firefighters on it has been recovered.

As reported, a replacement fire engine was immediately sent to replace the appliance destroyed in the blaze, along with new suits for its retained crew, who also lost protective clothing and equipment in the fire.

We put these questions about sprinklers and smoke alarms to Norfolk County Council:

Q: Sprinklers - do other fire stations in Norfolk have them? If not why not? Is it due to cost?

A: The Downham station did not have a sprinkler system. There is no legal requirement for a fire station to fit one. We promote them as being the best way of reducing the loss of life and preventing the spread of fire, and the new fire station being built at King's Lynn is sprinklered in order to prevent fires like this causing damage. The fitting of a sprinkler system after the building has been built is more costly than installation on construction, therefore a decision based on the costs and benefits of such a system will always be made.

Sprinklers are only a requirement in very specific designs. These would typically be when a building is large and/or high (over 30 metres) or when the designer wants to engineer the fire protection measures for example: public buildings with large open spaces such as a shopping centre or a heritage building which could not be replaced. For life safety Downham fire station was fitted with a fire detection and alarm system. This is the case for all fire stations in Norfolk.

Q: Did Downham fire station have a smoke alarm? Do other Norfolk fire stations have smoke alarms?

A: Yes, and all the other stations do too.

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