Sprinkler protects history and community

  • The correct installation of a sprinkler system saved a market from potential devastation
  • A single sprinkler head helped Oxford's historic covered market avoid a potentially serious fire and loss of business
  • Zurich Fire Protection Engineer Gary Howe explains how sprinklers saved the day

When a fire broke out in Oxford’s historic covered market at the end of 2015, it was fortunately brought under control without causing any major damage, due to the proper installation of the sprinkler system.

Designing and installing an effective sprinkler system

In May 2015, Oxford City Council approached us for advice on a replacement sprinkler system for its historic covered market, which dates back to the 1770s. We agreed to work alongside the council’s chosen contractor on the design and installation of the system.

Gary Howe, Fire Protection Engineer at Zurich Municipal explains: “It was great to be involved in the work from day one, as this gave us a chance to influence the installation. The market is a complex building and I was able to work with the contractors to ensure they used the correct system, and that it extended into all the nooks and crannies of the market.

“Testing is incredibly important when installing sprinkler systems, in this case it failed the first time and we had to make some adjustments before it could pass our rigorous tests.”

A single sprinkler head saves the day

Shortly after Christmas a fire broke out in the market. Investigators believe the fire started when a fridge in a street café ignited. Whatever the cause, when the fire brigade arrived, they found the fire had not only been controlled, but completely extinguished by the operation of a single sprinkler head, thus avoiding a potentially serious fire and loss of business.

“If it hadn’t been for the sprinkler system, it is extremely likely that this incident would have spread throughout the covered market, causing great loss to this heritage property and the local economy,” said Simon Piper of Rewley Road Fire Station.