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Birmingham Tall building Sprinkler Activations, Refuse Chute/Bin Store Update

2 January 2023 @ 12:00 am

  • 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
  • Height of building; 10 or more stories
  • Fixed Installation; BS9251:2014

The following update has been reported by Triangle Fire Systems involving a purpose-built block of flats, resulting in the premises sprinkler system actuating on 6 specific occasions following fires involving the building’s refuse chute/bin store within a 8 month period.


  • As part of a 3-year programme, Birmingham Council approved the installation of retrofitting residential sprinkler systems in all their high-rise residential block of flats in 2017 which included the removal of combustible material from the façade where it was identified by laboratories, and the replacement of window infill panels with A2 fire rated products.
  • Prior to this programme, Birmingham council completed a sprinklers programme to install sprinklers in all the communal bin areas of their residential tower block property portfolio
  • This approach implemented by Birmingham city council should be applauded, the outcome of which will provide a further layer of safety from fire for both their residents, firefighters.

Residential Sprinkler System

  • BS9251:2014
  • Category 3
  • Sprinkler head VK486
  • Water supply 60-minute tank (16000L)
  • Enhancements: –
  1. Dual Pumps
  2. Back up power supply diesel generator
  • FRS inlet
  • Remote monitoring

6x Reported Incidents within the space of 8 months

  • 4, May 2022
  • 12, 13  August 2022
  • 24 September 2022
  • 25 November 2022
  • 17 December 2022

The incidents

It is reported that on each occasion.

  • lit refuse was dropped down the refuse chute to the refuse store below
  • Activating the premises sprinkler system
  • 1 sprinkler head actuated on each occasion
  • Containing, controlling, or extinguishing the fire to the compartment of origin.
  • The sprinkler system enhancements were not activated

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 systemFurther 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 allowing 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 2021/22 which reinforces the above-mentioned findings that fire sprinklers have a good track record in reducing the impact of fire.


  • This incident clearly demonstrates the benefits of retrofitting sprinkler systems as part of a package of fire safety measures protecting high risk areas such as refuse chutes/refuse stores prone to malicious acts
  • Protecting life/property with the clear benefits it brings for the environment.

*FOI Requests for Incident Recording System Data relating to primary fires attended by FRSs in which sprinklers were present for England, Scotland, and Wales for the financial years 2018/19 to 2021/2022


BAFSA Incident Data Reports, Focus on sprinklers within high rise residential flats

¹ Efficiency and Effectiveness of Sprinkler Systems in the United Kingdom: An Analysis from Fire Service Data – Optimal Economics 2017

² Sprinkler Saves UK, Annual Review 2021/22

London Fire Brigade open letter to shopping centre managers




2 January 2023
12:00 am