OWNERS OF steel framed superstores and warehouses this week were facing an increased risk of major stock damage after fire fighters threatened to stay out of their premises during blazes.
A Chief Fire Officer's Association (CFOA) working party said it was no longer prepared to accept the relatively high risk of a sudden collapse, but that fire fighters would enter such buildings if lives were at risk.
The working party was set up to develop proposals for amendments to the Fire Safety Regulations, which are up for review next year.
Risks are highest with single storey, long span, uncompartmented buildings which have no additional fire protection to the exposed steel frame and no sprinklers. Fire loading within these buildings is often very high.
'In these circumstances you get a fast moving fire which leads to early collapse, ' said the CFOA warehouse working party chairman Mike Davis.
'Each fire is unique, and we have a well advanced incident assessment system, but if there is no good reason for sending fire fighters inside we will only fight the blaze from outside.'
Regulations normally concentrate on ensuring that building occupants can escape in time.
There is no suggestion that there is any problem with steel framed warehouses in this respect.
'But collapses very soon after the regulatory period of fire resistance are perceived as a significant problem, ' Davis said.
'If someone is trapped inside or if the risk to the environment from the combustion products of the contents is high then risks have to be accepted.
'But on most occasions it is likely that fire fighters will not enter the building.'
Measures likely to be recommended by the working party include increased fire protection to the steel and/or sprinklers, and increased compartmentation.