Vintage: Two years after fire destroys all vehicles in Liverpool multi-storey car park, UK
Two years ago, on New Years Eve 2017, a fire destroyed all cars in a 1 600-capacity multi-storey car park next to the Echo Arena in Liverpool, UK. The Liverpool International Horse Show was cancelled as fire fighters tackled the huge blaze next to the venue on Liverpool's waterfront. Merseyside Police said, "Initial investigations indicate that an accidental fire within a vehicle caused other cars to ignite. We believe that all vehicles parked in the car park have been destroyed and advise owners to contact their insurance companies." No-one has been seriously injured, the force said.
According to Liverpool's mayor Joe Anderson the blaze started in a Land Rover on the third level of the car park. Horses that had been on the first level were moved to the arena, he added.
Crews were first called at 16h42 and were on scene eight minutes later. The area was evacuated along with some apartments nearby due to smoke billowing from the blaze. Police advised members of the public to stay away from the area and traffic restrictions were put in place.
A spokeswoman for the Echo Arena said, "We regret to announce that the Liverpool International Horse Show has been cancelled tonight due to a serious fire in the multi-storey car park on site. All people and horses are safe and secure."
The four-day event was due to finish with Sunday evening's show where around 4 000 people were expected. There were periodic explosions and flames shooting up the outside of the building as the cars burned.
Here follows an extract from the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services official report on the incident:
MF&RS were alerted to a car on fire on the 3rd floor of the Kings Dock Car Park at 16h42, New Year’s Eve, Sunday 31 December 2017. The resulting blaze led to the loss of approximately 1 150 vehicles and so severely affected the fabric of the building, that demolition is the likely outcome. Fire investigation activities began at the Kings Dock Car Park at 18h22 on 31 December with the attendance of the MF&RS Incident Investigation Team (IIT). Over the following weeks MF&RS Protection Department worked closely with IIT and various stakeholders (ACCL, LCC, OCS, BRE, LIHSBE and WH Management).
CCTV footage shows that the fire started in a vehicle on level 3. Attending fire crews reported rapid lateral fire spread, running fuel fires, vertical fire spread from level of origin and a “waterfall” of fire from the ceiling of level 3. It was initially thought that fire spread was via the central ramps but upon further investigation it is considered that the drainage system was the likely cause of vertical fire spread.
Building regulations and MF&RS involvement with the building
Kings Dock car park is an 8 level, open-sided construction, comprising a ground and seven upper floors. Construction was completed in 2007. The car park is an ‘opensided’ car park, subject to natural ventilation. MF&RS took part in the Building Regulations consultation process on the car park. As a result of MF&RS submissions, it was agreed that fire fighting shafts would be installed within the building. This was due the building’s size and the lack of access afforded to external fire fighting appliances, on two of its elevations.
The building was constructed to these specifications. When it opened in November 2007 it complied with Building Regulations. On 2 November 2012 and on 2 December 2015, MF&RS fire safety inspectors audited the premises under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RR(FS)O 2005). On both occasions the outcome was broadly compliant, although the use of advertising on the external facia of the ground level of the car park was identified as potentially affecting cross ventilation. Due to the complex and diverse nature of the events that are held at ACCL and the inherent changes in fire strategies associated with these complexities, MF&RS had served ACCL with an Alterations Notice in 2008 (see Appendix 2).
Fire spread in car parks
In 1968, The Ministry of Technology and Fire Offices’ Committee Joint Fire Research Organisation researched and concluded that fire spread from one vehicle to others would not occur and that if it did, the Metropolitan Brigades would invariably be in attendance within three to four minutes. “This research underpinned the recommendations in Approved Document B.” (Fire Spread in Car Parks BD 2552 p.15). The fire resistance requirements under Building Regulations have not increased since the 1968 paper. In 2006, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) commissioned the Building Research Establishment to carry out a 3 year project titled “Fire Spread in Car Parks” (BD 2552). Although there had been few deaths or injuries recorded to that date in the UK, there were concerns regarding new and emerging risks from modern cars and alternative fuels. This research demonstrated, amongst other things, that:
• sprinklers are effective in both controlling a developing and fully developed fire
• running fuel fires spread the fire
• current methods to calculate ventilation openings from open-sided car park
• and mechanical ventilation in enclosed car parks needed to be considered
• the ease with which a car fire in a car park spread to nearby cars and once a very severe fire has developed, fire will spread to other cars separated by an un-filled parking bay, and
• fire conditions in partial and fully closed car parks are much more severe than• in open sided car parks.
The report concluded that the current fire resistance recommendations for car parks in ADB needed to be kept under revision and that calculations for smoke control and smoke clearance need to be carefully considered (BD 2552 p.98).
The full report can be downloaded here.
Source: RTE and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Services