Well, here we go again. Yet more innocent members of the travelling public burnt alive by fires caused by accidents in confined spaces.
On hearing of the Mont Blanc fire I wrote to NCE (15 April 1999) suggesting fitting sprinkler systems into long vehicular tunnels to combat the inevitable horrendous conditions that would quickly follow the outbreak of a fire.
Since then I have read arguments against sprinklers expressing concerns of people and rescuers being scalded by steam or insufficient water supplies to douse the flames.
I am no expert in fire procedures (except for a one day fire marshalls' course at Manchester's Fire Brigade) but I doubt that activation of sprinklers would raise temperatures enough to cause scalding concerns. And most tunnels by their very nature pass beneath areas which are likely to contain water supplies in vast abundance.
Furthermore, today chief fire officer Des Prichard of East Sussex Fire Brigade launched an initiative to encourage the fitting of sprinklers in domestic premises. He was backed by local MP Michael Foster (Hastings & Rye). If sprinklers are safe enough in homes then they are safe enough in tunnels.
I suspect the cost of installating a sprinkler system would be comparable to that of carriageway lighting - can you imagine the uproar if it was proposed to construct a lengthy road tunnel without lighting!
Peter Wadsworth (M), first director, Quality Result, peter@qualityresult. co. uk