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LPool: Another 2017 Fire With Unprecedented Spread


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Go on then, how did a single vehicle fire in a multi storey car park in a Merseyside city centre discovered in its early stages during the day, spread to involved 1,400 other vehicles?

My initial thought were that maybe this job started in some kind of temporary structure or caravans connected with the horse show next door, but BBC and Twitter reports/photos seem to suggest otherwise. A photo posted on social media shows what is said to be a Land Rover alight in seemingly a routine car fire incident - notwithstanding it was on an upper floor of a car park building which would be a little challenging.

June 2017 found me unwittingly passing Grenfell on my way to work, 4 hours after the 999 call to see the entire western side fully involved and wonder how the hell it spread. Now, as 2017 clinged on by its finger tips, another major fire where it appears fire spread was uncharacteristic to say the least, and surely raises serious questions.

If anyone has any reliable information relating to this job now or during the next few months, I would be obliged if they could share it. I am currently working on a project to improve fire safety in a similar building that is now used for car parking and other light industrial uses. The Responsible Person does not want to invest in the improvements I have suggested, so I would like to take advantage of this incident to 'review' their decision with them




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Fire safety in car parks is all about getting people out and is generally provided by ventilation (as in the Liverpool fire, by open sided construction) or by neutral ventilation (by grills or vents) or my mechanical/forced ventilation. Compartmentation is also catered for, but generally for means of escape.

There are statistically few fires in multi storey car parks and very few casualties. However, the Govt produced a report around 2009, probably as a result of the death of 7 firefighters who perished when a car park collapsed on them during a fire. After 3 years, the Govt research produced a shed load of data but pretty wishy-washy findings. It did mention (but did not emphasise) that sprinklers will reduce the risk of spread to neighbouring vehicles, although it will not always extinguish the fire.

My own view is that - as with Grenfell - regs and standards are lagging behind reality and change.

Consider a Ford Cortina from the 1970s: A small steel petrol tank and electrics limited to combustion engine ignition systems, vehicle lights, perhaps a car radio and if you were lucky, a stick on Smith foil rear window defroster!!

Compare that with a modern mid range family car: A large plastic fuel tank, with un leaded (difficult to extinguish) petrol. Masses of insulation and plastic interior trim, electrical widows, radio, CD, cigarette lighter, auxiliary, out puts, bigger battery, complex and hot exhaust systems, computerised ignition, and a whole lot more.

Cars can produce 7 MW and people carriers much much more (think of the insulation & extra seating they have) - so the fire loading and smoke output may well be more than car park design is based on.

Like Grenfell, there have been warnings re car park fires. In 2006, a car park fire damaged 22 cars and killed a resident of the old people's home above in Avon (Search Monica Wills House, in Bristol). The car park was not sprinklered, the home was and it was the sprinklers in the home that stopped the fire spreading. I also wonder if this poor victim was recorded as a fatal in a domestic setting so missed from any search on car park fatals?

Another Public Inquiry anyone????

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ETA, just seen there were 3x hvp's there too, so I guess a number of other specials!

Edited by Carl
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Excellent point Messy,

We had a 16 plate Discovery alight last month that showed exactly as you describe. We had a reserve pump, so traditional 19mm hosereels, engine compartment well alight, fire spread along fuel line to tank that had ignited the spare wheel directly underneath. Fuel, rubber, trim and magnesium all going with their own different fire behaviors and and a ton of wattage being put out. Water soon depleted, dry powder depleted, made up two pumps due to no water and countryside location, banter ensues :D

The fire loading on modern vehicles has followed the same trend as dwellings: more of it, and coupled with slower response times.

This one in the summer also goes as evidence...

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Factor in LPG tanks, hybrids batteries, I'm not surprised they're harder to put out. TBH once it started spreading in a high rise open sided car park I'm not surprised it spread, crews would be into defensive mode fairly early. 

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On ‎01‎/‎01‎/‎2018 at 20:41, Kinmel said:

Sky News has video footage shot from above.

From that footage, you can see how intense the fire was, the concrete is completely destroyed over a large area.

Hard to tell from the pictures how close the apartment blocks are to the car park and if there is any damage, but looks like the crews did a good job in containing it to the car park.

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On 01/01/2018 at 18:48, Trevatanus said:

Surprised it was only 12 pumps!

I'm not; considering the cuts that have taken place in Merseyside FRS in the last 10 years or so; they only have around 28 pumps compared to 42 back in 2010, see here. The CFO, local MP's and Mayor are very vocal and critical of the austerity that the government has forced upon the emergency services.

I'm sure the crews did the best they could with the resources available and once it had taken hold, there was probably not more that could be done than to protect the surrounding buildings etc.

Edited by Cass
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And not all of those pumps were Merseyside either. Cross border assistance from both Lancs and GMC! Would be forgiven if it was on on near the border but for a city centre job...scandalous!

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Are Merseyside having to stagger there make ups at this point?

Pretty shocking a 12 pump fire takes up neigh on half a met brigades resources, especially when you consider the fact they might have to drop down to 18 pumps across the brigade!

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  • 10 months later...

Blimey - Its Grenfell Part 2.

Not (thankfully) in terms of lives lost, but in terms of showing that Approved Doc B is not fit for purpose. I do hope that the Grenfell Inquiry Team have received a briefing from Merseyside F&R

Any operational firefighter with a few years in will tell you car fires are more difficult to control now than there were a few decades ago. Unleaded petrol had been sited as the main cause, but I would argue my 4x4 has 100 times more plastics (esp insulation) than my Dad's old Vauxhall Viva.

Lets hope the findings of this job are not hidden in the huge shadows of Grenfell as it will be an opportunity lost

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