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Sprinklers needed to prevent market fires

Sprinklers could have prevented fire spread at Camden, a leading fire expert said this week.

Camden Canal Market was devastated two weeks ago when a fire spread rapidly, damaging 35 of the 90 stalls occupying the site.

"Camden Canal Market will inevitably highlight the issue of sprinkler protection for the future," said Halcrow director of fire safety engineering Fathi Tarada.

"The risk of fire spread between such closely spaced stalls and shops is quite high, and there are significant costs in case of business interruption."

Camden is far from being the first such a fire to occur in a market: Ashton-under-Lyne market hall suffered a serious fire in May 2004, which caused the roof of the building to collapse and destroyed virtually everything in the building, with the exception of the original Victorian

The redesigned Ashton-under-Lyne market will include extensive sprinkler protection.

Tarada said that fire in a row of shops would be compartmentalised by the walls of the buildings, but fire in markets spread quickly as they are open plan to allow for the circulation of shoppers.

Six shops along Camden high street were also damaged and three were demolished as they posed a danger to the public.

A spokesman for Camden Market Holdings, which owns the market, said that their focus was on assessing the impact on the structural damage and had not yet looked at proposals for rebuilding.

Kier Rail, contractors for Network Rail, were making the most of the cleared site this week to access the masonry railway arches for routine inspection. The masonry viaduct which runs through the market survived the fire intact, suffering only cosmetic damage.

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