Family owes lives to fire sprinkler system

Flames doused after fire traps three in tenth-floor flat



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Published on 12 April 2023

Flames doused as fire traps three in tenth-floor flat

A family who were trapped by fire in their tenth-floor flat owe their lives to sprinklers.

Around 25 firefighters responded to the Birmingham high-rise shortly after 2am in the early hours of this morning (Wednesday 12 April).

As the crews made their way to the scene, and smoke started to fill their home, the family were given fire survival guidance over the phone by Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Control.

When the crews arrived at Salisbury Tower in Middleway View, Ladywood – just three minutes after being mobilised – the fire was already out, thanks to water sprinklers drenching the flames.

Simon Barry, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS), said: “Sprinklers save lives – as this incident very clearly demonstrates. It could have ended tragically had the council-fitted system not kicked in.

“Sprinklers are invaluable. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who respond to fires, and reduce the amount of fire damage to property and the environment.”

Four fire engines, a 4×4 Brigade Response Vehicle and an aerial platform attended the scene.

A man, a woman and a toddler were led to safety by firefighters, before being taken to hospital for checks after breathing in smoke.

A metal fire sprinkler

It is the believed that the fire was started by an electric bike, left on charge in the hallway of their flat. The flames cut off the family’s only escape route.

Added DCFO Barry: “Without the sprinklers, the family could have been very seriously injured or worse.

“The fire blocked their only way out. The bike battery produced a lot of smoke and fumes, which quickly spread through the flat.

“Very fortunately, the sprinkler system did its job. One of the sprinkler ‘heads’ was fitted very close to where the bike was being charged, so the flames were quickly extinguished.”

People have a much higher chance of surviving a fire in the home if sprinklers are fitted.

WMFS has previously welcomed the decision taken by several West Midlands councils to retrofit sprinklers across their high-rise tower blocks.

Research by the National Fire Chiefs Council showed that sprinkler systems operate on 94% of occasions and help keep people safer in their homes. In converted and purpose-built flats, sprinklers are 100% effective in controlling fires.