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Fire safety plea after Lowestoft factory blaze

PUBLISHED: 11:50 05 August 2010 | UPDATED: 09:48 16 September 2010

Smoke coming from the Wessex Foods factory in Lowestoft

Smoke coming from the Wessex Foods factory in Lowestoft

Amy Gray

Fire chiefs in Norfolk and Suffolk have called on businesses to install sprinklers following a blaze which destroyed a factory in Lowestoft.

Firefighters from across the region tackled the fire at Wessex Foods in Lowestoft last month, and the workforce of 150 could now face redundancy because the factory was so badly damaged.

Fire chiefs in Norfolk and Suffolk have called on businesses to install sprinklers following a blaze which destroyed a factory in Lowestoft.

Firefighters from across the region tackled the fire at Wessex Foods in Lowestoft last month, and the workforce of 150 could now face redundancy because the factory was so badly damaged.

Now Norfolk and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Services have urged companies to install sprinklers, even though they do not have to by law.

Phil Embury, assistant chief fire officer for Suffolk, said the blaze at Wessex Foods, on the South Lowestoft industrial estate, could have been contained.

“There was no sprinkler system and as a result the fire was able to spread very quickly and encompass the whole building,” he said.

“A sprinkler head in the immediate area where the fire occurred would have contained the fire to a relatively small area. We would have been able to attend and make sure the fire was out properly.

“It's easy to say after the event, but it's a point we would illustrate to people who have seen the results of this particular incident. It's something all companies should give consideration to.”

He said that people were usually put off by the cost and the worry that the water could unnecessarily damage equipment.

“I think sometimes there are a lot of myths. People worry the sprinkler system will destroy the whole factory but it will only go off in the area where the fire is.”

Mr Embury said that businesses should balance the cost of the system against lower insurance premiums and the opportunity to carry on with a business rather than potentially facing total loss after a fire.

He also said that people should consider the knock-on effect to the economy, the environment, and the danger faced by firefighters.

“It's usually a cost consideration and perhaps a thought that it won't happen to us if we are careful with fire safety management,” said Mr Embury.

Stuart Horth, area manager for Norfolk fire service, said: “We would certainly echo what our colleagues in Suffolk have said. A sprinkler system may not prevent a fire but it can seriously restrict the fire from spreading and the amount of damage done if you are unfortunate enough to experience one.”

The cause of the Wessex Foods fire is not yet known but it is believed to have started in some chilling units.

Wessex Foods declined to comment.

Businesses wishing to install a sprinkler can contact the Fire Protection Association for more information.


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