Fire Brigade Union slams DETR oversight on high-rise fire regulations.
New regulations governing fire protection in high-rise buildings have been slammed by the Fire Brigades Union for putting the public at risk.

The FBU claims that firemen would not be able to put out a fire in many tall buildings because they are inaccessible to current fire fighting equipment.

Firemen’s ladders can only reach 10 storeys, so the FBU wants every floor above 10 storeys to be fireproofed to protect occupants. They are alarmed at the new regulations, which state that fireproof floors should only be installed at 12 storeys and above.

The FBU says the DETR has incorrectly estimated the length of the fire service’s ladders by failing to allow for the fact that they are angled when in use.

The fireproof floors create “fire compartments” that stop the rapid spread of fire and prevent occupants from becoming trapped. They also reduce the chance of a fire engulfing the whole of a building.

The attack, in a FBU internal memo, follows a DETR review of the fire-safety element of the Building Regulations, Approved Document B, which, the union claims, ignores their advice.

The leaked FBU memo, obtained by Building alleges that the minimum 12-storey height at which fire compartments have to be installed is based on a turntable ladder extended straight up, and “not the safe working height, which is around 25 m (or 10 floors)”.

A DETR spokesperson conceded the union’s case. He said: “The government has recognised the discrepancy, and departments are meeting to discuss further measures to remedy the situation.”

In its contribution to the DETR consultation process, the union had recommended that the regulations require that fireproof floors be installed on all buildings of 10 storeys and above to account for the maximum reach of their ladders.

But, it says, the DETR has failed to act on its advice and has placed the public and fire fighters in danger.

“It’s a gross error; it really is unacceptable. The regulations should be revised,” said Mick Shergold London Regional Chair of the FBU.

The leaked memo, dated 13 March 2000, slams the DETR for not amending the regulations. It states: “We raised these issues during the consultation process and hoped the DETR would at least recognise the facts. They have not done so.”