A senior fire officer has said that the Woodborough School fire would not have caused so much damage had there been sprinklers in the school's buildings.

On Friday (September 17), firefighters were called from across Wiltshire to tackle a blaze at Woodborough School, near Pewsey.

Read more: Firefighters from across Wiltshire tackle fire at school

Fire sprinklers limit damage

It has since been found that the fire started accidentally in the school roof, which had been undergoing building works, according to investigations by the Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service.

However, Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell has said that sprinklers would have reduced the speed of the fire's spread and the damage caused before firefighters arrived at the scene.

Salisbury Journal:

Pictures: DWFRS/ Devizes Fire Station

Mr Ansell said: “Whenever there is a school fire, there is debate around whether the building should have had fire sprinklers, in no small part due to the devastation such incidents cause and the effects on the children, staff and the wider community.

"While sprinklers might not have prevented this fire from taking hold in the roof, they would have reduced the speed at which it spread and limited the damage caused before my firefighters arrived on scene.

"As a service, we will continue to promote the installation of sprinklers in new and refurbished school buildings, and I know our fire safety team will be working with the management of Woodborough School to explore all available options for keeping the site safe from fire in the future."

This year, the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) also called for automatic water suppression systems to be mandatory in all school buildings for 'protecting property'.

In a response to the government consultation in May, Building Bulletin 100: Fire Safety Design for Schools, the body said: "NFCC believes that school and educational buildings are vital community assets, and their design should include fire safety measures which aim to minimise the effects of fires that may occur within them.

"NFCC have called for automatic water suppression systems to be mandatory in all new and refurbished school buildings.

"We acknowledge that deaths and injuries in school fire are rare, and whilst sprinklers would provide additional life safety benefits, the greatest gains to be made are in protecting the property which will in turn secure the continued education of the children.

"In the event of a fire, sprinklers should ensure minimum disruption and allow use of the premises to return to normal as quickly as possible."

Salisbury Journal:

Recovering from the fire

The Chief Fire Officer added: “Our Education team is already in contact with the school to see how we can help the children come to terms with what has happened, and I know that local firefighters are also offering whatever help they can give to the recovery process.”

The service has also thanked the village community for its support following the fire.

During the incident, local people provided refreshments, the social club was opened as a rest area, and driveways were made available for vehicles to be parked.

The officer added: “This was a large and complex incident, with firefighters working tirelessly to contain the fire, and protect and save as much of the school as possible.

"We know this has had a significant impact on the community, and we were incredibly grateful for the support we received, not just within the village but from partners including Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police.”

Over the course of the fire, crews attended from Pewsey, Devizes, Marlborough, Calne, Trowbridge, Salisbury, Royal Wootton Bassett, Westbury, Andover, Chippenham, Westbury, Mere, Swindon, Stratton and Tisbury.


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