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Birmingham Tall Building Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Sprinkler Save

12 April 2023

  • Fire Rescue Service; West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service. (WMFRS)
  • Incident; Fire.
  • When; 12 April 2023.
  • Time of call; 02:00.
  • Where, Salisbury Tower, 55 Middleway View, Lady Wood Birmingham.
  • Occupancy: Purpose built Flat 10 or more stories.
  • Automatic fire suppression System; BS9251:2014 Residential sprinkler system.

WMFRS have reported the fire involving a residential block of flats resulting in the activation of the premises residential sprinkler system.


  • As part of a 3-year programme, Birmingham City Council approved the installation of retrofitting residential sprinkler systems in 213 high-rise residential blocks of flats in June 2017.
  • Prior to this sprinklers were retrofitted into all the communal bin areas of their residential tower block property portfolio.

 The Premises

  • 20 Storey residential block of flats.
  • Containing
  1. 116 Flats.
  2. Ground floor common room, refuse store, caretakers’ office, and storage area.

 Residential Sprinkler System

  • BS9251:2014 Residential sprinkler system.
  • Sprinkler coverage apartments, ground floor common room, refuse store, caretakers’ office, and storage area.
  • Common ways and stairs not sprinkler protected deemed fire sterile, managed.
  • Category 3 Enhanced water supply.
  • (Dual Pumps, 60 minutes full holding capacity tank.
  • Generator backup to one pump.
  • FRS emergency inlet.

The Incident

  • Four fire appliances, one aerial platform was mobilised by Staffordshire and West Midlands fire control to a tall building fire, involving a residential flat on the tenth storey of the building.
  • Fire survival guidance was provided to the family over the telephone by Staffordshire and West Midlands fire control due to smoke percolating throughout the flat compromising the families means of escape.
  • 3 minutes after being mobilised, operational crews identified that the fire had been extinguished by the activation of the residential sprinkler system.
  • Allowing firefighters to assist the family from their dwelling to a place of safety.
  • The family were removed to hospital for a precautionary check-up.
  • The cause of the fire is believed to involve an electric bike left on charge in the hallway of the flat, compromising their means of escape from their dwelling.

This incident clearly identifies the benefits of installing a correctly designed and installed sprinkler system reducing the rate of production of heat and smoke, allowing more time for the occupants to escape to safety or be rescued.

 Tall buildings fires are one of the most challenging incidents for fire and rescue services, sadly demonstrated following the Shirley Towers fire which occurred in a residential tall building in Southampton in 2010 which cost the lives of two firefighters.

Benefits of residential sprinklers for tall building fires

  • Internal fire spread within the dwelling contained/controlled or in some cases extinguished.
  • Preventing further fire spread from the compartment of origin compromising the means of escape from the common ways.
  • Rapidly reducing the rate of production of heat and smoke, preventing flash over
  • Allowing firefighters in carrying out search and rescue operations by limiting fire development, which significantly reduces the risks to firefighters allowing the residents to be safely evacuated from the premises.

The danger of E-bike and E-scooter when charging

  • WMFRS press release refers that the cause of the fire involved an electric bike which was on charge.
  • Charging batteries or E-bikes and E-scooters should not take place in your escape routes.
  • London Fire Brigade (LFB) have reported, fires involving lithium batteries are the fastest growing fire risk in London.
  1. In 2023 LFB have attended on average, an e-bike or e-scooter fire once every two days.
  2. In 2022, we attended 87 e-bike and 29 e-scooter fires, a total of 116 fires.
  • The dangers of Lithium-Ion battery fires should not be underestimated which can develop into significant and unstoppable *thermal runaway fires.
  • it should be noted, Sprinkler protection of lithium-ion batteries is outside the scope of current standard sprinkler design standards e.g., EN, NFPA/FM, specialist standards are being developed for example NPFA 855

Simon Barry, Deputy Chief Fire Officer of West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS), said: “Sprinklers save lives – as this incident very clearly demonstrates. It could have ended tragically had the council-fitted system not kicked in.

“Sprinklers are invaluable. They save lives and reduce injuries, protect firefighters who respond to fires, and reduce the amount of fire damage to property and the environment.”

He added: “Without the sprinklers, the family could have been very seriously injured or worse. The fire blocked their only way out. The bike battery produced a lot of smoke and fumes, which quickly spread through the flat.

Further guidance/sources

*Thermal runaway is an uncontrollable chain reaction in lithium -ion batteries that can lead to a fire situation. These reactions cause a dramatic increase in the internal battery temperature causing the inner components of the battery to destabilize, degrade which eventually leads to the failure of the battery.



12 April 2023


Location (Town/City)
Type of Sprinkler Installation
Wet Pipe