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Hot works blamed for school refurb blaze

9 June 2020

A fire that completely destroyed a Derbyshire school was most likely caused by hot works taking place during a refurbishment project, prompting calls for thermal imaging and hot work training for construction workers.

Firefighters were called to the accidental blaze at Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton on 28 May 2020.  Crews from across Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire attended the scene and worked throughout the night, with two firefighters sustaining minor injuries.

Group manager Dean Gazzard, who was the officer in charge at the fire said: “Workers carrying out the refurbishment of the school did everything they could to contain the fire and prevent its spread before the arrival of firefighters. 

“Fire crews worked in extreme heat and challenging conditions, but despite everyone’s efforts, the school was totally destroyed by the rapidly spreading fire.”

Kumu Kumar, head of risk engineering at insurance firm Zurich, said: “As the recent blaze that destroyed Harrington Junior School in Long Eaton highlights, hot work remains a constant threat, and more action is needed to tackle the problem.  Although the construction industry has well-established safeguards in place, hot work fires are continuing to break out with alarming regularity. 

“A combination of approaches – including the use of thermal imaging cameras and hot work training – could help to dramatically reduce the frequency of hot work fires.  Costing as little as £400, the devices could prevent millions of pounds worth of damage and reduce the costly impact on local communities.”

Comments

surprise, surprise.

Ashley Theakstone, 9 June 2020

Talk about re-inventing the wheel. Whist at college back in the early 60’s, we were told of a “new” M & S instruction that no hot work was allowed after lunch time, as a way of avoiding any fires. Have we learnt nothing in the intervening years ?

chris peterson MCIOB, 9 June 2020

I bet they never understood the known fire risk associated with CLASP buildings. If they had known they would never have used hot working. With CLASP even if they had had thermal imaging it would, in my opinion, still have been a complete loss as fire spreads rapidly through the roof voids.

There is also a primary school, a special needs school and an academy school on the same site all of which appear to be CLASP – these should have been dealt with years ago to reduce the fire risk with a complete gut and installation of passive fire protection compartmentation and sprinklers.

According to Hansard (HC Deb 15 February 1973 vol 850 cc414-5W) there were 906 major CLASP projects between 1957–58 and 1971–72 in the UK. This report in Hansard followed the CLASP fire in France in a school in Paris on Feb 7 that claimed the lives of 21 people, mostly children. A young Mrs Margaret Thatcher was answering the questions raised.

The Conservative Government at the time and successive governments did nothing to resolve the problems in the UK. Only 8.5% of new school buildings in England are built with sprinklers – all new school buildings in Wales and Scotland have to have sprinklers. BB100 is still under review – the Conservative government had proposed removing any reference to sprinklersin schools in England – the recommendation for sprinklers had been introduced by Labour to the building bulletin.

As an aside – There is also a secondary school in the middle of the site. This is a brand new building. The sports hall is clad with that difficult to ignite timber cladding. Daft or what? I find no problem in setting fire to timber.

Arnold Tarling, 9 June 2020

Unbelievable

sheila, 9 June 2020

As a Gas Safe M&E Clerk of Works Consultancy I carry thermal imaging camera, thermal imaging moisture meter and a void inspection robot to aid with my inspections but in most cases not many people carry this equipment or in a lot off cases there are not even Clerk of Works on these jobs

Trevor palmer, 10 June 2020