February’s been a busy month for Greater Manchester’s Fire and Rescue service tackling fires in commercial premises.  It started with the service assisting their Lancashire colleagues with a ferocious blaze in Adlington, near Chorley. In total, more than 100 firefighters had to be drafted in to help extinguish the massive warehouse blaze. A few days later, Greater Manchester crews were involved in fighting another blaze at a commercial premises in Old Trafford. Six crews were needed to bring the fire that had broken out in the units under control. Days after that, 50 Greater Manchester fire fighters were involved in tackling a blaze which had broken out at a storage unit in Bury. It goes without saying that the disruption was considerable for the companies whose property was damaged. Sometimes these kinds of fires even have the potential to spell the end of a business. But what also made itself apparent is quite how much of an impact fires can have on the people who are in the surrounding area. In the Old Trafford fire, 45 residents had to be evacuated from homes nearby, due to concerns over the presence of gas cylinders. Some were able to get back to their homes after a few hours but others who lived closer had to wait over 12 hours before being able to return home. The incident also disrupted traffic in the area for a significant period of time. The extent of the damage was such that the property has since had to be demolished. In Bury, all the businesses on the trading estate had to be evacuated due to the density of the smoke and the risk of the fire spreading. The roads surrounding the area remained closed to traffic, and hazard cordons were put in place due to concerns over potentially explosive acetylene cylinders on the site. People living in the area were advised to keep windows and doors closed.

Dealing with the aftermath And while it’s a horrible experience to be disrupted due to a nearby fire as it actually happens, the consequences don’t end the moment the blaze is finally put out. A major clean-up operation was initiated in Adlington which at the time of its launch was estimated to require around 4 weeks to complete. Perhaps the most significant worry for those in the immediate area was the acknowledgement that due to the asbestos-cement cladding on the building, the fire would have led to debris containing asbestos being released. It was explained to residents that as the asbestos fibres were held tightly within the body of the cement products, the risk was low. But it’s pretty likely there still would have been quite a lot of anxiety about the situation.

Are your fire risk assessments up to date?

These three fires are reminders of every company’s obligation to do everything it can to minimise the risk of fire not only to protect its own interests and workers but to protect those situated near it too. It doesn’t matter what size your premises is: even a small unit catching alight can create disruption and distress to those in the vicinity. Minimising fire risks requires carrying out a thorough fire risk assessment. That enables you to identify all possible risks then establish what needs doing to eliminate or at least significantly reduce them. And then it’s essential it’s reviewed regularly so any changes are taken into account and your fire management plan stays up to date. If you are unsure about your fire risk assessment, or would like some guidance about carrying out actions that have resulted from it, please do get in touch with us for some expert advice.