A very serious fire occurred in a block of flats in Hampstead, London last week.

Fortunately the building was protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system installed by a BAFSA and RSA Member company.

The system activated on five floors, due to the severe fire that spread from balcony to balcony.

The incident clearly shows the importance of automatic Residential Sprinklers, had sprinklers not been fitted it is the view of London Fire Brigade that all of the balcony flats would have been severely damaged by fire and had a major impact on firefighting operations and of course the safety of Firefighters and residents.

The Fire started externally and London Fire Brigades Brigade’s Fire Investigation Team believe the cause of the fire was due to a cigarette butt being discarded into a plant pot on the balcony of the third floor.

During the incident, 5 balconies from the second (podium level) to the sixth floor were completely destroyed by fire.

Fire and heat penetrated into the 5 flats causing about 10% damage to each.

The automatic fire sprinkler system operated from the third to sixth floor using 11 heads

Fire damage was contained to the balconies, double glazed windows/frames had smoke/heat damage external to the flats, and photographs clearly show the positive effect of the sprinkler heads

Due to the successful actuation of the sprinkler system, only five flats out of thirty-four suffered mainly external damage. There were no casualties and householders while suffering a traumatic event incurred minimal personal loss. The main reason for this is that a properly installed residential sprinkler system stopped the fire progressing into the building.

There was some smoke damage to the flats, however had it not been for the sprinkler system the damage would have been not just smoke damage but severe fire, heat and smoke damage.

Discarded smoking materials are a serious problem in many types of building both residential and commercial; the fitting of an automatic fire sprinkler system can protect the building from the effects of carelessly discarded cigarette ends as it did in this case.

The system was designed and certified to BS9251, 2005 regulations and covered the apartments only. The system was connected to the boosted cold water supply; this had a feed to each floor with control valves located off of these feeds. Control valves consist of an isolation valve, flow switch, pressure gauge and drain point.

On each floor that sprinkler heads activated, the flow switch registered back to panel in the concierge area, clearly showing the areas that were in the fire.

Most importantly, a Third Party Accredited Member of BAFSA and RSA installed the system.