34 fires at schools in last five years but none had sprinklers

Thursday, November 12th, 2020 4:34pm

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter @EddieBisk

There were 34 fires at Derby and Derbyshire schools in the past five years and none of the schools had sprinklers.

Six were deliberate, including the two Derby schools destroyed by arsonists in early October.

This has been brought to light following a Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Both Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council have refused to say which of their schools do not have sprinklers.

They both claim arsonists actively target schools without sprinklers and that saying which schools do not have them would present a public safety issue.

Statistics from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service show that the vast majority, more than 80 per cent, of fires at schools in the county and city in the past five years were not caused by arson.

They also show that a potentially large proportion of Derbyshire and Derby schools do not have sprinklers – all schools in the county and city, minus a handful of new-builds.

Last month, Gavin Tomlinson, Derbyshire and Derby’s chief fire officer, rejected the assertion that arsonists targeted schools without sprinklers.

Mr Tomlinson, on seeing the FOI data released this week to the LDRS, said: “Over the last five years firefighters from Derbyshire have responded to 34 separate school fires.

“Each individual school fire has a detrimental impact on the education of the children that attend the school and an impact on the economy, whether a complete rebuild or refurbishment is required.

“School fires also require a large response, with many fire crews often tied up for several hours, working to minimise the spread of fire and mitigate the damage caused.

“Of course there is also the risk of injury, something that was sadly highlighted when two firefighters sustained minor injuries responding to the accidental fire at Harrington School, Long Eaton in May this year.

“The impact on our children’s education, costly repairs, rebuilds and firefighter injuries can all be avoided with the installation of simple fire safety measures including sprinklers.

“Sprinklers can extinguish a fire completely, or contain its spread until fire crews arrive to deal with a small fire.

“Sadly sprinklers were not fitted in any of the 34 schools we attended fires at over the last five years, but I am confident that we are now heading in the right direction to safeguard Derbyshire schools in the future.

“This week I have been delighted to announce that both the City Council and County Council have signed a statement of intent to fit sprinklers into new build schools and schools undergoing significant refurbishment.

“This is a great commitment by our councils and I know others are looking at what we are doing here in Derbyshire.

“Unlike in Scotland and Wales, sprinklers are still not mandatory in schools in England, so this is a great achievement for fire safety here in Derbyshire and I am encouraged to see other neighbouring fire and rescue services interested in pursuing a similar statement of intent with their own local authorities.”

The six deliberate Derbyshire school fires in the past five years were at Ravensdale Infant and Nursery School, Derby, on October 5; St Mary’s Catholic Voluntary Academy, Derby, on October 3; Cavendish Close Infant School, Derby, on May 6, 2019; Bolsover Infant and Nursery School on February 27, 2019; Chapel High School, in the High Peak on May 20, 2016; and Woodlands Secondary School (now Allestree Woodlands School), Derby, on May 12, 2015.

 

Main image:

The fire at Ravensdale Infant and Nursery School on 5 October. Credit: Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. 

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