sprinklerTen fire engines and over 70 firefighters and officers were called to a fire in a large distribution warehouse on Lombard Wall in Charlton and were helped by the activation of a sprinkler.

The fire, which started external to the building, damaged six lorries and the exterior part of the warehouse while four people were assessed on the scene for smoke inhalation by London Ambulance Service. The distribution centre was fitted with a sprinkler system which activated and this also helped reduce the impact of the blaze on the main building.

At its height, the fire produced plumes of smoke which could be seen for miles around. Businesses and residents in the area were advised to keep doors and windows closed as a precaution and local road closures were put in place.

Station Manager Bruce Grain, who was at the scene, said: “During its early stages this was a very intense fire. Crews wearing breathing apparatus attacked it extremely quickly and thanks to their efforts the fire was prevented from spreading any further into the warehouse and causing even more damage.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Andrews added: “There is absolutely no doubt that in this case the sprinkler system, along with the quick actions of our crews, prevented a much more serious fire from spreading any further into the depot and causing potentially millions of pounds worth of damage to both the building and stock inside.”

Warehouse fires remain a huge threat to the UK economy and to business resilience, according to the Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA). The BSA is formed of a group of industry experts who aim to increase the number of businesses protected by fire sprinklers and is calling for the lessons learned from the Sainsbury’s Warehouse fire to be put into practice.

Iain Cox, Chairman of the BSA, commented: “It’s important that people realise just how important it is to install fire sprinklers, in warehouses and commercial buildings as well as homes. As well as being better for the environment, having sprinklers fitted protects businesses in the long run and can safeguard them against potentially disastrous losses, which amount to £3.4m each day across the UK. “We’ve heard time and again from fire services across the country that sprinklers are instrumental in preventing the spread of fire.”

This building was a largely un-compartmented structure of one and two floors measuring 240 by 100 meters, standing 20 meters high with a structure is of steel frame construction, clad in sandwich panels.