637 views Apr 12, 2021

A fire which destroyed hundreds of rented units at a three-storey self-storage warehouse in Manchester has once again brought into sharp focus the wider impact of fire and the vulnerability of unsprinklered buildings.

About 125 firefighters and 25 fire engines were called to battle the blaze at the Self-Storage Tameside facility in Denton on 21st February. Thankfully, there were no injuries, but the wider impact to the hundreds of people who had rented units and lost stored goods will be felt long after the fire was extinguished by the fire and rescue service. Self-Storage Tameside customers included Rebecca Dakin, a business owner who reports losing £100,000 of stock from a new start-up, and Donna Hilton who lost her worldly possessions.

These fires are challenging to contain due to the large quantity of furniture and often unknown materials which are normally tightly-packed into facilities of this type. These incidents create large fires that burn hard for a long time, creating a lot of smoke which in this case could be seen across Manchester, causing the evacuation of nearby residential areas and the closure of the nearby M67 motorway.

The fire in Denton follows similar fires from the Safehouse fire in 2017, Shurgard as we left 2018 and through to the Twinwoods Business Park fire in 2019. The catastrophic Shurgard Self Storage fire in Croydon, which also had no sprinklers, destroyed every one of its 1198 storage units. The cause of the blaze was filed as undetermined. Shurgard’s new replacement four-storey facility opened last year with the owners making the decision to include sprinklers in the rebuild despite not being required by building regulations.

“One of the big questions with these self-storage facilities is how anyone can claim protection against fire based on the light separation between units and the lack of knowledge of what people are putting into their individual units,” said Iain Cox, Chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance. “Can self-storage operators assume that a fire will be contained in such circumstances and therefore offer comfort to their customers?”

It’s another painful reminder that fire does not discriminate; whether it is a self-storage warehouse, a university, a car park or an office, fires happen on a regular basis. However, they can be contained and extinguished by systems such as sprinklers to ensure that life is not put at risk and businesses, jobs and the economy are protected.

Sprinklers are a proven method of controlling fires. They allow fire crews the time to safely gain access and extinguish fire and we welcome their consideration as a way of ensuring that properties of all types are adequately protected.