Destroyed Buildings. Two Unsprinklered Factory Fires - Same Outcome

Meadowbank Road, Carrickfergus

In early April, when industrial fires broke out in two different locations, they both had the same devastating outcome.

On 10 April, a fire started in a furniture factory in County Antrim damaging the building. Two days later, a fire swept through a bedmaking factory in Dewsbury. Neither building contained a sprinkler system and both businesses are now counting the cost of the damage and dealing with the disruption to their livelihoods.


 “Once again, we must question the understanding of the vulnerability to such fires and the gap in regulations.”

– Tom Roche 

Secretary, Business Sprinkler Alliance




The fire at Abbey Upholsterers in Carrickfergus started in the early hours of Saturday and completely ravaged a major part of 6,000sq.m industrial building, despite the efforts of 70 firefighters from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

Local roads were closed and residents were asked to close their windows because of the smoke. The deputy mayor of the local council expressed his shock at the event as the business is an important local employer, and UK & Ireland supplier.


Uncertain future

In Dewsbury on Monday 12 April, eight fire engines and two aerial appliances from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spent several hours putting out a blaze at the 2,800sq.m Matza factory, with smoke plumes that could be seen as far away as Huddersfield. The local family-run bedmaking business employed 50 workers, who like the company, face an uncertain future.


No guidance

In both cases, these were industrial buildings that have no guidance for compartment size limits or the need for sprinklers.

The Fire Safety Building Regulations (FSBR) guidance envisages unlimited size industrial buildings. In the case of warehouses they can be 14 - 20,000sq.m in footprint and in many cases up to 18m tall, without incurring guidance for subdivision or sprinklers. Such buildings are enormous, roughly six times the size of an average out-of-town DIY store. But the FSBR makes no consideration for the protection of property or indeed the minimising of the spread of fire within the building.


No survivors

The building will survive for the period it takes to get people out, after which we transition into a period where the inherent resilience diminishes - few of the buildings survive. They have physical limitations when it comes to firefighting due to their compartment size. There is a twisted logic that says the building is disposable in the event of fire.



"Industrial fires such as these once again highlight the rationale for greater consideration of property protection alongside life safety as a reasonable requirement," continues the Business Sprinkler Alliance's Roche. "Such an expectation would result in more buildings being designed to be resilient to disproportionate damage, using combinations of passive and active fire safety measures. The BSA believes that sprinkler systems would be a major part of this change and should be considered more readily as a viable option right across the built environment, whether it is a care home, block of flats, hospital, school, retail or leisure facility or a commercial and industrial building."


Saving lives - saving jobs

When we minimise fire spread we not only protect lives, we protect property, businesses and jobs," adds Roche. "A properly controlled fire can be the difference between a building requiring renovation or demolition. Halting the spread of fire when it is first detected is the best way to limit damage and minimise costs and impacts. Sprinklers have been shown to contain, control or extinguish fires in 99% of cases. The impacted business can be operational within hours, avoiding the economic and social costs." 

Picture: "We need to break the chain and have the discussion on minimising fire damage and property protection for the benefit of our wider communities," says -Tom Roche, Secretary of the Business Sprinkler Alliance after this industrial premises fire at Meadowbank Road, Carrickfergus on 10 April 2021.



Article written by Cathryn Ellis
20th May 2021


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