None of Brent’s 29 fire-hit schools had sprinklers installed, fire chief reports

Fire rips through roof at St Joseph's RC Primary School Pic credit: Hannah McGrath

Fire rips through roof at St Joseph's RC Primary School Pic credit: Hannah McGrath - Credit: Archant

Not one of the schools in Brent where fires have broken out in the last decade had sprinklers installed at the time, new figures have revealed.

Three years after a major fire tore through St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Primary school in Goodson Road in September 2015, the brigade has renewed its call for sprinklers to be fitted in all educational buildings.

Chiefs want them to be mandatory in new school builds and have been calling for older buildings to be retrofitted with the safety measure during major refurbishments.

London fire commissioner Dany Cotton said: “Sprinklers are the only fire safety system that detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. They save lives and protect property.

“While I ultimately want all schools to have sprinklers, the easiest time is to fit them are when schools are being built or refurbished and I find it staggering that such a simple safety measure is so easily omitted from the designs.”

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More than 500 nursery and primary pupils aged two to 11 were evacuated into the playground of St Joseph’s alongside 65 staff as flames began to tear through the roof and upper floors shortly after 2.30pm on September 22, 2015.

Pupils moved into temporary classrooms at Newman Catholic college in Harlesden Road as repairs were carried out, while young pupils were relocated to the former Anansi nursery in Roundwood Park.

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According to figures from the London Fire Brigade (LFB) there have been 29 school fires in Brent since 2009, though none this year.

Meanwhile the number of school fires across the capital has gone up from 67 in 2016 to 90 in pre-schools, nurseries, primary schools and secondaries in 2017.

Of the 707 London schools where the brigade tackled fires between January 2010 and December 2017, sprinklers were only installed in 14.

The Fire Protection Association has found the average cost of large school fires increased from £330,000 per blaze in 2009 to £2.8million per incident just five years later.

Ms Cotton said: “The government should do its homework and realise millions of pounds are wasted every year repairing fire damage in London’s schools when sprinklers could have prevented the spread of fire.

“This is not just about saving money. When a school is closed it disrupts a child’s education and affects parents by closing breakfast and after school clubs.”

A Brent Council spokesman said the extension buildings of St Joseph’s RC school, which is managed by Westminster Diocese, were not fitted with sprinklers, adding:“Brent undertakes a risk assessment for all school building projects that the council manages to determine if sprinkler systems are required, in line with DfE guidelines for fire safety in schools.

“A new primary school, East Lane Primary, had sprinklers included in the building design. Recent school expansion projects have not included sprinklers following a risk assessment as the expansions were assessed to be ‘low risk’.”

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