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Homes evacuated in wake of extensive fire at clothes recycling warehouse

17 April 2023

AN EXTENSIVE fire that broke out in an industrial unit in Mansfield completely destroyed the building, entailed local residents having to evacuate their premises and has resulted in the temporary closure of the business. The building did not have the benefit of an automatic fire sprinkler system.

The blaze began at the Savannah Rags clothing warehouse in Forest Road on Saturday 18 March and required 15 fire crews and more than 100 firefighters from the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to contain it.

The fire required huge resources including an aerial ladder platform in order to prevent the flames from spreading to nearby residential properties. Residents reported hearing explosions shortly after the fire broke out.

While there were no reported injuries, the impact on the local community and environment has been significant with local road closures, power outages and nearby residents forced to evacuate to a local leisure centre due to the close proximity of the fire, thereby ensuring their own safety.

There were a number of measures employed to minimise the impact of pollution to the local environment and representatives from the Environment Agency knocked on doors to reassure and support residents in the ensuing days.

Clothing and textiles recycling

The family-run business recycles large quantities of textiles and clothing, which is then exported to countries around the world where people are in need.

What remains of the circa 4,000 m2 building is currently being demolished. Pleasingly, collections are going to begin again with the support of others in the trade as the business builds back to its former capacity.

The fire at this location was not unique. It’s one of many recycling centre fires to have started in the UK in the past 12 months. All were typified by large numbers of firefighters being required to contain the blaze where there was a presence of a high fire load due to highly combustible materials.

Under current Building Regulations guidance, the buildings that suffered from the impact of devastating fires were not subject to any guidance for sprinklers. Individuals are sometimes confused by this, and even more so when they witness the scale of the necessary Fire and Rescue Service response in tandem with the consequences of these episodes.

Limiting damage, minimising costs

According to the Business Sprinkler Alliance, halting the spread of fire when it’s first detected is the best way in which to limit damage and minimise costs and impacts. Sprinklers have been shown to contain, control or otherwise extinguish fires in 99% of cases when caused to be brought into operate. In practice, the impacted business can be operational again in a relatively short space of time, in turn avoiding any unwanted economic and social costs.

Having sprinklers fitted would have protected these businesses in the long run. They safeguard against potentially disastrous losses and also aid life safety. By preventing large fires, sprinklers also protect the environment by helping to avoid CO2 emissions, reduce excess water use by the Fire and Rescue Service and eliminate local water supply contamination.

The Business Sprinkler Alliance commented: “Above all, sprinkler systems maintain business continuity. In the event of a fire, many businesses with sprinkler systems find they are back up-and-running in a matter of hours.”

*Further information is available online at www.business-sprinkler-alliance.org