MFRS highlights importance of sprinklers after fire in high rise student accommodation

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is emphasising the importance of sprinklers after a fire in a high rise student block.

Firefighters were called to Horizon Heights in Skelhorne Street, Liverpool City Centre, just after midnight on Saturday 12th September. Four fire engines attended, as well as the combined platform ladder.

The fire involving an electrical heater had started in a flat on the 11th floor of the 20 storey building. The intensity of the fire caused the sprinkler system to activate, which contained the fire before crews wearing breathing apparatus arrived at the scene to extinguish the blaze fully.

20 firefighters were mobilised to the incident from Liverpool City, Toxteth, Kirkdale and Birkenhead fire stations. Around 100 students were evacuated from the building, taking shelter in nearby Lime Street Station for approximately one hour while the incident was dealt with. There were no injuries.

Horizon Heights was built in September 2019 with a life safety sprinkler system incorporated into the design but not all high rise buildings will have adequate fire suppression systems in place. MFRS is backing a call by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) for an increased use of sprinklers across the board and lowering the threshold for their use in high-rise blocks of flats from 11m (or four floors) as a minimum.

Mark Thomas, Group Manager at MFRS, said: “There was a lot of potential fire fuel inside the flat which would no doubt have caused significant issues once it became involved in fire. Our crews were able to reach the fire floor and extinguish the fire in very good time. We were clearly aided by the sprinkler system which had operated as expected, minimising the risk of a more significant fire developing.

“This highlights the importance of having sprinklers installed in residential buildings both in terms of preventing further fire damage and keeping occupants and firefighters safe. It is worth noting that there has never been a fire fatality in sleeping accommodation fitted with sprinklers – that’s why we are so passionate about their use being extended across the board.”

GM Thomas added: “I would also like to thank the students who left the building in such an orderly manner under guidance from the building’s security staff. The students were very helpful towards our crews and certainly assisted us to get our job done safely.”

Incident investigation has established that a faulty electrical heater was the origin of the fire.

People living in rented or shared accommodation are seven times more likely to have a fire, and while fire safety might not be at the top of students’ agendas while they’re away at university, it should be.

That’s why MFRS works closely with universities and student accommodation providers across Merseyside to ensure students are taking the appropriate steps to protect themselves and others.

For more information about staying safe from fire while at university, visit our fire safety for students page here.