"I have just been watching a really good feature on the
BBC news about calls from the Chief Fire Officers Association
(CFOA) for new regulations around timber framed buildings -
especially when under construction. It is still available to
watch on the BBC web site.
This is a really big issue - the most recent fire being in
Basingstoke last week - but there has been a significant number
across the country including in Greater Manchester. They had
representatives from the "Timber Associations" expressing 100%
confidence that these buildings are safe.
In many ways, of course, they are safe when constructed; and
people shouldn't be alarmed, as long as the buildings are managed
in accordance with good practice. In these scenarios its only
when buildings are changed or adapted that there may be a
But when they are under construction - and because of cost and
speed of construction there are a large number of these under
development - then there are potentially major problems if they
catch fire. The speed of fire spread and the ferocity of the
blaze makes this a very dangerous fire, and firefighters have
little option but to adopt defensive firefighting (in simple terms
remain outside). These partly constructed buildings are also
prone to sudden collapse.
The Chief Fire Officers are calling for better research and new
regulation around this form of construction.
We appreciate the desire for as little regulation as possible
around citizens, but an overly zealous pursuit of this idea misses
the reality that some things simply won't happen if there is no
"requirement" for them - and builders and construction companies
follow building regulations. Self regulation is a laudable
goal and one definitely worth pursuing in many areas but as we saw
from the banking crisis sometimes "real people" are driven by other
more human factors like profit; and so it is a matter for "the
Authorities" to put in place the right level of regulation.
Let's hope it doesn't take a tragedy - as it so often has in the
fire world - to learn."