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Birmingham Tall Building Refuse Chute/Bin Store Activation Update No 2

10 June 2023

Image credit Triangle Fire Systems  Ltd ; sprinkler head discharging

  • Fire Rescue Service; West Midlands Fire Rescue Service (WMFRS)
  • Incident; Refuse chute/bin store fires
  • Where; Birmingham
  • Use of premises; Purpose built residential block of flats.
  • Fixed Installation; BS9251:2014

During the month of June, Triangle Fire Systems Ltd reported five separate incidents within 5 days involving the activation of the premises residential sprinkler system within the refuse/bin store of three high rise residential purpose-built block of flats.

Making a total of 19 incidents within the space of 13 months when you consider the previous Sprinkler Saves May update which reported 14 similar incidents, justifying Birmingham councils’ decision to install sprinklers in all the communal bin areas of their residential tower block property portfolio.

Post Grenfell, Birmingham council continued their commitment to providing its residents with the highest level of fire safety by implementing a 3-year programme for the retrofitting of sprinklers in all their high-rise residential block of flats. The approach should be applauded, the outcome of which will provide a further layer of safety from fire for both their residents, firefighters.

The specification, design of the residential sprinkler system (BS9251:2014) for each individual premises was bespoke which included but not limited to

  • Category 2-3
  • VK486 Sprinkler heads
  • Water supply 60-minute tank (16000L)

Enhancements: –

  1. Dual Pumps
  2. Back-up power supply diesel generator
  • FRS inlet
  • Remote monitoring

5x Reported Incidents within the space of 5 days.

  • 10, 14, 18, 19, 21 June 2023

The incidents

It is reported that on each occasion.

  • Apart from one incident lit refuse was dropped down the refuse chute to the refuse store.
  • Activating 1 sprinkler head on each occasion.
  • Containing, controlling, or extinguishing the fire to the compartment of origin.
  • No injuries were reported.



Image credit Triangle Fire Systems Ltd

  • Image 1 sprinkler head discharging
  • Image 2 sprinkler head isolated

To make sprinklers the norm we need the evidence, the reporting of these incidents should not be underestimated driving change, the outcome of which will entice housing providers to install sprinklers providing a further layer of safety as part of a holistic approach protecting our communities from fire

Danger of Refuse Chute/bin store fires

These types of fires can have a dramatic effect on the safety of the residents, specifically where refuse chutes and access hatches can sometimes be found directly opening onto protected corridors, lobbies, and stairs, so providing the potential for the spread of fire and smoke to the common escape routes.

It is therefore best practice in these situations.

  1. Automatic fire-resisting shutter should be fitted at the base of the refuse chute to restrict the spread of fire and smoke from a fire in the bin room. The shutter should, as a minimum, be operated on a fixed temperature fusible link.
  2. Bespoke sprinkler system, further protection can be provided by the installation of a sprinkler system located over the bins, with either frangible bulb or fusible link sprinkler heads, or open sprinkler heads with water discharge controlled by smoke detectors.

Importance of Fire Safety Management

It is paramount that those designated fire safety managers who have responsibility for fire safety within a building ensure that all fire protection measures in a building can function effectively in the event of a fire including.

  • Where the sprinkler alarm functionality is integrated into the premises emergency plan, the cause and effect should be designed to allow the appropriate emergency response allowing the attendance of the FRS. The actuation of a sprinkler head should be taken as a confirmed fire.
  • Refuse fusible-link automatic fire resisting shutters.

Management is key ensuring the premises fire safety systems are operable in the event of a fire, reinforced in an open letter from the LFB in 2020, forwarded to those responsible for fire specifically aimed at shopping centres, identifying the importance of maintaining fire safety systems. This principle applies to all buildings where fixed installations are installed.

 Incident Recording System Data

 It is reported that where sprinklers were present and actuated in purpose-built block of flats within Great Britain refuse stores accounted for 173 incidents, West Midland Fire Service attended 71.

  1. 41 x Incidents were either contained/controlled.
  2. 27 x Incidents extinguished.
  3. 2 x Did not contain/control.
  4. 1x Not known.

This data clearly supports the most recent ¹publication commissioned by the National Fire Chiefs Council, National fire Sprinkler Network, it was reported that their track record across all building types where sprinklers were identified as present, operated were 99% efficient in extinguishing or controlling a fire, 94% efficient in their ability to operate This was further evidenced by the ²Sprinklers Saves UK Annual Review 2022/23 which reinforces the above-mentioned findings that fire sprinklers have a good track record in reducing the impact of fire.


10 June 2023