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'Building Regs must change', say fire chiefs

An urgent review is needed relating to regulations concerning the fire risk of timber-framed buildings under construction, fire chiefs have said

The call follows a spate of blazes involving large timber framed buildings in Peckham and Camberwell, south London and in Basingstoke (pictured), which resulted in the fires damaging neighbouring buildings.

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is calling for a review of the Building Regulations to consider the issue of external fire spread from fires involving construction sites.

It claimed large timber-framed buildings under construction posed a ‘significant risk’ to firefighters, construction workers and members of the public.

The CFOA said the use of timber frame as a method of construction had increased markedly in recent years.

More than 100 firefighters battled a blaze on September 10 involving a four storey timber-framed block of flats under construction at Gershwin Road, Basingstoke in Hampshire.

The organisation called for Government research into firefighting in timber- framed buildings and fire spread within and beyond such buildings to be accelerated and the findings published ‘as a matter of urgency’.

It added managers of building sites needed to ensure security arrangements were in place to prevent fire risks from arsonists.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service Chief Officer, John Bonney, who is also president of the Chief Fire Officers Association, last week warned about the danger of timber-framed buildings.

He said: ‘When timber-framed buildings catch fire the actual structure burns. It often leads to total collapse and that puts the safety of our firefighters at risk.

‘The potential for fire spread was clearly of major concern at this incident, and shows that the Chief Fire Officers Association is right to be increasingly concerned about the number and severity of fires in timber-framed buildings under construction.”

Fire Minister Bob Neill said: ‘We take fire safety very seriously and are aware of the questions raised about timber-framed buildings.

‘The new Government is listening to the public’s concerns carefully and will tackle them head-on. We will work with industry to establish whether there is evidence of specific risks associated with timber-framed buildings. We are also actively awaiting a London Assembly report on this issue and will look at its conclusions carefully.

‘However, I also want to reassure people that on the whole we have a very good record in this country of making our buildings safe and reducing fire deaths.

‘The best thing people can do to keep themselves safe - whatever kind of building they live in - is to fit a smoke alarm and check it’s working properly.’

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