Safety body Scoss has issued a stark warning that the fire that destroyed a Liverpool car park could happen again.
The fire, which ripped through the seven storey car park at the beginning of this year, destroyed 1300 cars and burned through the reinforced concrete structure.
A report from Scoss found that the fire broke out in a car on the third floor and although firefighters arrived within a few minutes, they were unable to stop its spread both horizontally and vertically.
Although the fire was classed as a near miss as there was no loss of life and no complete collapse, the report said the consequences of such a fire could be far worse if it had spread to neighbouring buildings which were 25m and 5m away.
The report’s findings on the potential causes for the fire’s rapid spread echoed those of fire safety expert Alasdair Beal, who previously told New Civil Engineer that changes in car design, larger fuel tanks and more plastic components could have been major contributing factors.
The report made a number of recommendations for the owners and designers of multi-storey car parks.
These included reviewing whether the 15-minute fire resistance required by building control guidance Approved Document B, would be sufficient to guarantee against structural damage and loss of business continuity. It also said the effect of a fire in a car park on nearby developments should be considered in a wider sense.
The addition of sprinklers should also be considered, said the report. Tests carried out on closed sided car parks in Australia had found sprinklers were effective at controlling a developing and a fully developed fire and made the spread of fire unlikely.
“Fires in MSCPs do occur and are usually extinguished rapidly,” said the report. “However, the Liverpool fire provides compelling evidence that this is not always the case, and steps should be taken by fire engineers and structural engineers, as well as by owners and managers of similar facilities, to consider the potential impacts of fires in car park structures on both life and property.
“The Liverpool fire was comparatively benign in that there were no casualties. On another occasion the consequences could be quite different, and given recent disastrous fires, would likely be unacceptable to society.”