Underground car park case study

On 20 April 2016 Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service received calls to a report of a fire in the underground car park at Gloucester Green in the heart of Oxford. Six fire engines from: Kidlington, Eynsham, Rewley Road, Slade Park and Wheatley and additional support vehicles from were sent to the scene.

The first crews were on scene within minutes and firefighters wearing Breathing Apparatus and using Thermal Image cameras quickly descended through dense smoke into the underground structure to find that there was a vehicle on fire.

Fortunately this car park is fitted with automatic water sprinklers which had operated and helped suppress the fire, preventing it from spreading to other cars in the area and allowing firefighters to fully extinguish the fire using high pressure hose reel jets. The fire was so intense that it set off 8 sprinkler heads but due to the presence of a fully functioning fire sprinkler system the damage was limited to two cars (one of which was purely heat damaged due to its proximity to the fire).

Fires in basements always present firefighting crews with an array of problems and can be particularly difficult to deal with due to fire-fighters having to enter basements by going down stairways through the hot fire gases and smoke being emitted. Then, once crews are in the basement area conditions can be very difficult, with high levels of heat and vision being completely obscured due to the smoke and limited ventilation. Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service always recommend that consideration is given to installing fire sprinkler systems, without one present in this situation this car park could have suffered a much more serious fire and lost income for a considerable amount of time.