Firefighters push for tighter regulation for timber-frame buildings during construction

The fire service has renewed its call to make timber-frame buildings safer during construction after two fires on sites in Edinburgh.

A partly built timber-frame apartment block at the Waterfront Gait development burned to the ground last weekend. It was being developed and built by Hart Building, which is part of the East Lothian-based Cruden Group.

One-hundred-and-fifty residents were evacuated from the area. The cause of the fire, which broke out on Saturday evening, is not known, but police said they wanted to trace two girls seen in a distressed state near the building shortly before it began.

A month before, 50 people were forced to flee from a fire that tore through a timber-frame block of flats being built by Bellway near Hibernian FC’s Easter Road stadium.

A spokesperson for the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, which dealt with both fires, said: “The problem with timber-frame buildings is that until they are completed and sealed they pose an increased risk to firefighters and others. We would like to see fire-stopping installed straightaway.”

The spokesperson said a report on the fires would be sent to BRE, which is carrying out research into fire safety of timber buildings during construction.

A report by the Fire Protection Association into a fire on a partly built timber-frame apartment block in Colindale, north London, two years ago questioned whether the method should be used for high-rise buildings.

In a statement, the Timber Frame Association said: “All buildings under construction are potentially vulnerable to accident or malicious acts of damage. It is important that all housebuilders and developers take what actions they can to ensure the security of their assets, particularly when work may have been temporarily suspended on site, or in inner city locations or areas vulnerable to vandalism or arson.”

A spokesperson added: “We are working with the HSE, London Fire Brigade and the Fire Officers Association to minimise fires on site during construction.”

The market share for timber frame has risen again for the ninth consecutive year and now stands at just over 22% of all new housing, according to the UK Timber Frame Association.