Wrightstyle

Remembering the Smithfield Fire with Wrightstyle

  • 14 Mar 2018

Jane Embury, Wrightstyle’s marketing director, takes a look at the Smithfield fire, which took place in London 60 years ago, causing the deaths of two firefighters, whilst changing policies on breathing apparatus.

It’s a fire that took place sixty years ago in London’s main meat market and cost two firefighters their lives.

The Smithfield fire burned for three days in January 1958, and also injured another two dozen firefighters. It was tackled by 1,700 firefighters and 389 appliances.

Following a review, policies on firefighter breathing apparatus were changed, replacing ‘Proto’ oxygen sets with compressed air breathing apparatus.

Since then, and as our understanding of fire dynamics has improved, procedures and firefighting equipment have further evolved to offer a greater margin of safety to building occupants and firefighters.

Essentially, fire safety in commercial buildings is down to three things: an alarm system to detect and warn of the danger, a sprinkler system to damp down the fire, and fireproof compartments to contain the fire at source and prevent it spreading.

Taken together, those active and passive elements are designed to allow occupants to escape from the building, and provide safe access for the fire and rescue services. How those elements are applied depends on the size of the building, its complexity and its function.

Whatever the building, compartmentation is fundamental to its safety, creating a series of protected fire zones to ensure that the fire is contained. At Smithfield, this simply didn’t happen.

Fire is spread through three methods: convection, conduction and radiation, of which convection is the most dangerous. This is when smoke from the fire becomes trapped by the roof, spreading in all directions to form a deepening layer. Smoke, rather than fire, is often the real danger.

Materials such as metal can absorb heat and transmit it to other rooms by conduction, where it can cause new fires to break out. Radiation transfers heat in the air, until it too sets off secondary fires, spreading the danger away from its original location.

Modern glazing systems can provide complete protection against convection, conduction and radiation – whether as curtain walling, or internal doors or fire screens – for up to two hours, giving more than enough time for a safe evacuation.

But building designers and specifiers must ensure that the glass and its framing systems have proven compatibility. That means insisting on comprehensive fire test certification that covers both elements.

In a fire, the glass and its frame have to function together to prevent the spread of fire, smoke or toxic gases. If one fails, both fail, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

At Wrightstyle, we’ve invested in fire certification in the UK, USA and Far East – a reflection of our global business, and our confidence in our systems’ performance.

We can’t prevent fire from happening. But we can prevent it from spreading, and that’s just as important.

Wrightstyle,
Unit 2&7 Banda Trading Estate,
Nursteed Road,
Devizes,
United Kingdom,
SN10 3DY

Visit Wrightstyle's website

Leave a Reply

More articles

Schluter
Gilberts

Gilberts expands building services expertise

Product knowledge enhanced by practical expertise is now available to air movement specialists in the south, courtesy of changes at Gilberts Blackpool.

Posted in Air Conditioning, Articles, Building Industry News, Building Services, Heating Systems, Controls and Management, Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning - HVAC, Posts, Recruitment

GGF

New health and safety code of practice launched by GGF

The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) has announced the launch of the newly revised Code of Practice for the Safe Handling, Transportation and Site Storage of Glass.

Posted in Articles, Building Associations & Institutes, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Exhibitions and Conferences, Glass, Glazing, Health & Safety, Posts, Publications, Training

Kestrel

Kestrel team braves the elements for charity golf day

Wind and rain didn’t dampen the spirits at Kestrel’s recent golf day, as they teed off for three children’s charities.

Posted in Articles, Building Industry Events, Building Industry News, Building Products & Structures, Charity work, Drainage, Guttering, Soffits & Fascias, Fascias, Posts, Roofs, Walls