Various British fire organizations have agreed that an appropriate governmental response to a car park fire that took place in 2019 could have prevented the recent disaster at the Luton Airport car park. The October 10th Luton fire, which authorities now suggest was initiated by a “vehicle fault”, resulted in the cancellation of 235 flights, caused structural damage to the airport’s multi-story parking garage, and destroyed more than 1400 cars. The car park was constructed only four years ago but will now likely be demolished due to the extensive damage.
Ali Perry, chief executive of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, was quoted as calling the fire a “regrettable reminder of why BAFSA continues to call for sprinklers to be fitted in all modern, multi-story car parks.”
The Fire Brigades Union described the Luton car park as an “accident waiting to happen” and slammed government regulators for failing to learn from the December 2017 New Year’s Eve multi-story car park fire at Liverpool’s Echo Arena, which destroyed more than 1000 vehicles. Following that fire the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service went on record as saying the fire could have been stopped by a fire sprinkler system, giving crews a much better chance of limiting the damage. The Echo Arena car park was torn down and replaced with a new car park at a cost of 26 million pounds, but included a sprinkler system. The Luton car park was built with similar construction materials as the original Echo Arena car park and yet without fire sprinklers two years after the fire.
The Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA), backed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, has also called for sprinklers in all new car parks. BSA Secretary Tom Roache noted “Current regulatory guidance doesn’t call for sprinklers in these buildings” because it is based on “thinking from the 1980’s and early 90’s where cars were built very differently than they are today.”