Former Mid & West Wales Chief Fire Officer Ronnie King (pictured) has criticised the DCLG Secretary of State for his attack on the Welsh Government’s Housing Policies, particularly his negative remarks about automatic fire sprinklers in saving lives, burns and injuries from fire.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said last week that a 'burden of red tape' from the Welsh Government will mean less house building, fewer first-time buyers and more expensive rents and mortgages.
He claimed the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government was stripping away red tape in England but the Welsh Government was pushing up the cost of homes. Mr Pickles criticised Clwyd AM Ann Jones' campaign for new and converted homes in Wales to be fitted with anti-fire sprinkler systems as contributing to excessive red tape and higher house prices.
In response, Mr King OBE, who is Vice Chairman of the National Fire Sprinkler Network ed the following statement:
"The National Fire Sprinkler Network with representation from every UK Fire & Rescue Service in its membership, finds it extremely concerning that you have seen fit to criticise the democratically elected Assembly Government of Wales, and one of its members in particular Ann Jones AM, for introducing a Life Saving Fire Safety Measure, which is shortly to be implemented in that Country; as all new Homes built in Wales will soon see an automatic sprinkler system installed. People don’t die in sprinklered buildings, a single fire death is an extremely rare occurrence, anywhere in the world, with a properly designed working sprinkler system. A multiple fire death is almost unheard of! So let’s stop killing people when we have a solution.
"The first duty of a Government is surely to protect its citizens and we can only look on in envy at what the Welsh Government has achieved, after some 4 years of extensive scrutiny and intense interrogation of such a wide ranging cross section of organisa-tions; having unanimously reached agreement across all political par-ties, to proceed with this Measure, before its passage through the Westminster Parliament and receiving Royal Assent. The Regulations are currently being drawn up and consultation on Implementing the Measure closes in seventeen days time on the 17th June 2013.
Despite many efforts to derail this initiative throughout the process, the determination and spirit of a Nation to succeed has been underes-timated, and this Network, along with the Chief Fire Officers’ Associa-tion (the Professional Voice of the Fire & Rescue Service), the Local Government Association’s Fire Management Committee, the Fire Bri-gades Union, warmly applauds the Welsh Government for not giving in to those who for whatever financial or other personal reasons, desired it to fail.
"So why are you so much against it? Why are you and the builders saying that there will be less house building in Wales, fewer first time buyers and more expensive rents and mortgages; when research was recently undertaken in America which proved that sprinkler installation in domestic dwellings made no difference at all to the number of houses built or the demand for them? In fact potential purchasers were asking for Homes with sprinklers, where they could be certain that their families would be safe in the event of a fire.
"I myself am a former Chief Fire Officer in Wales where I served as a ‘Chief’ for twenty years (forty one years altogether in the Service) and during my tenure of office I failed to prevent 150 people from dying in fires in Mid & West Wales with another 6,000 from being burned or in-jured in fires. Some of those have been receiving continuous surgery for their injuries for over twenty five years, with a huge cost to the Health service. During my career myself and my fellow firefighters have brought out lifeless bodies of children (sometimes as many as five or six), who needn’t have died in this horrific way, had sprinklers been installed.
"Enough is enough, and my colleagues in the service, are ‘fed up’ of it, so we implore you to listen to what the professionals in the service are telling you. In seven recent fires in Great Britain, 36 lives were lost, 31 of them were children. Mention has been made that the Coalition Government is not likely to legislate for sprinklers in the next twenty five years, during which time 8,000 more lives will be lost in fires and hundreds of thousands of people burned or injured in Britain.
"We recognise that the decision by the Welsh Government to require all new domestic dwellings in Wales to have automatic sprinkler protection installed will take some time before it fully impacts on reducing deaths and injuries from fires, and damage to property. However they had to start somewhere, and it is easier and more economical to install sprinklers during the build process. As the economies of scale and trade-offs begin to bring down costs, it is highly likely that retrofitting in existing dwellings will take place and the installation of these incredibly economical life saving sprinklers will start to have the desired impact on fire deaths, making Wales the safest place to live from the effects of fire.
"We trust you will receive these remarks as helpful to understanding the wider implications of the Measure and its meaning to an inspirational and caring Nation."