Sprinklers not yet active at fire hit high rise

Sprinklers not yet active at fire hit high rise

A FIRE on the seventh floor of Gamble Hill Croft – owned by Leeds City Council – led to the discovery that a new sprinkler system for the block ‘has not yet been turned on’.

Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the fire at the tower, which ‘did not spread beyond the flat’ and was ‘quickly brought under control’ by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service. However, the building had recently been retrofitted with a sprinkler system that it turns out is ‘not yet active’, despite the council having invested £30m to retrofit systems across its tower blocks.

Gamble Hill Croft and Gamble Hill Grange were said to have been identified as priorities for retrofitting ‘as far back’ as January 2018, with the government having ‘refused to help’ the council previously with sprinkler funding. The news outlet noted in turn that in October 2018, a new sprinkler system at Cottingley Towers in the city ‘was also not on when a fire broke out’, and a council spokesman stated that the system in Gamble Hill Croft would not be completed until January.

Resident Carl Walker commented: ‘I believe it is shocking that after all the time and money that has been spent installing the along with the disruption they still haven’t been turned on, not only that they are padlocked into the closed position. The fire on the seventh floor just goes to show that they are a much needed safety device which are designed to save lives and prevent a major incident. I don’t feel safe anymore or have I for a long time now, especially after the Grenfell tragedy.’

An anonymous resident also added: ‘Work on sprinklers finished a while ago. They checked some flats to see if [there were] any leaks and that was that. We noticed that the pipes to feed the water to the sprinklers was in the off position and had a padlock on them. I showed the firemen - they opened the cupboard and said “yes, they are all on the off position”. What good are sprinklers if no water can get through? The fire could have been worse.’

Council shadow housing spokesman Barry Anderson responded: ‘The Council has been proactive on fire safety in recent years. They were quick to carry out assessments of cladding and have prioritised local funding to address fire safety through sprinkler systems, fire risk assessments, fire safety booklets, compartmentalisation of high rise blocks and quench systems for bin rooms. So work has been ongoing on this key issue.

‘However, we are now almost two years since the first announcements were made on the installation of sprinkler systems are there any reasons as to why this is taking so long? Tenant safety is absolutely paramount so the Council does need to get on and deliver the new sprinkler systems as quickly as possible.’

Another council spokesman stated: ‘Leeds City Council is aware of the fire at Gamble Hill Croft which was extinguished this morning and contained to one flat. We would like to thank West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for reacting and dealing with the incident so quickly. We treat the safety and wellbeing of our residents as paramount. A sprinkler system is in the process of being fitted to the communal areas and individual flats at Gamble Hill Croft but is not yet active.

‘It is anticipated to be completed in January 2020. Fire alarms are fitted throughout the block and up-to-date fire safety advice is on display and available to residents who are now also being updated with progress of the sprinkler installation and all recent work.’