FFP Canterbury Ltd

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How a fatal fire might happen in 2023

The Loafers Lodge fire in Wellington has everyone asking the question – how does this happen in a building with a current warrant of fitness? While the coroner, Fire & Emergency and Police will be working for some time to establish all of the facts around this fire, there are a few things which are known and others which are common issues to all buildings that we can learn from. 

  1. The police arrested and charged an individual with allegedly lighting the fire. A malicious fire is very difficult to predict and does not behave like a fire we would expect to occur naturally in a building. Instead of having time for smoke detectors to pick up and alert occupants before the fire has broken out, malicious fires tend to start as a flame, and build quickly as the arsonist will generally choose the items they light with the intent for them to burn well. Keep yourself aware of the risk of arson – traditionally these occur outside buildings at night. Check the Arson Watch sheet on our FAQs page. If you do have an intentional fire, treat this seriously and involve the police without delay and ensure Fire & Emergency are responded. Be very careful a second fire is not lit as arson is generally a serial offence.
  2. Many occupants interviewed spoke of regular false alarms, and the complacency of themselves and others not bothering to respond to the alarms. False alarms are a big risk because buildings are designed to alert occupants and give them enough time to evacuate. If an evacuation doesn’t take place immediately, the egress path may become untenable in a relatively short time. I have been told by an industry body managing false alarms that FFP are the most proactive at attending to nuisance callouts and working with owners to reduce false alarms, but the job is an ongoing one and all building owners and occupiers need to be aware of their system and know what will set the alarms off. If you think you have a potential false alarm issue, discuss this with our team and we can work to keep your system in top order. Contractors in a building are the number 1 cause, so make sure they are made aware of your fire systems before they start work. 
  3. When a fire alarm activates and is shut down, the system turns off the area which has activated and livens the rest of the system. It is most important that we are responded immediately to reset the system. If your system is not directly connected to the Fire Service then we will not be aware of the activation and we should be called 24/7 to remedy the cause and restore the system. A delay with this could mean another fire in the same area – or the same issue re-igniting - is not detected and could become catastrophic before the alarm is raised. 
  4. If your system is not connected to Fire & Emergency directly, then this is worth considering. For around $800.00 per year this is a small price to pay to ensure that a fire is attended to quickly by the professionals. Fire and Emergency do not charge for attending callouts and they will carry keys to your building. We can arrange for your building to be connected to the brigade and ensure both FENZ and FFP are automatically and immediately notified of an issue in your building. 
  5. Exit paths are very important to be kept clear and to be kept in good order at all times. There should be no obstructions in the egress routes and if you have damage to exit doors then you must have this repaired as soon as possible. Sometimes small repair jobs like this can be considered low-priority by builders who are focused on bigger tasks. There are tradespeople who specialise in small jobs and we can recommend some if needed, but it is important that egress routes are all kept available at all times. Download our Info Sheet on Egress routes from our FAQs page. 

These sort of issues are often considered minor matters on their own but are matters that can have devastating consequences when there is an emergency. While none of these are specific to the Wellington fire and the investigation will make its conclusions into the factors, these are the issues which can quickly add to the risks for both life and property.