Fire leaders want new rules to improve safety in pubs

Fire leaders have called for a review of safety in Edinburgh's pubs and off licences two years after the Balmoral bar blaze claimed the life of firefighter Ewan Williamson.

• Debris piled up at the scene of the fatal Balmoral bar fire in Dalry in 2009.

Councillor Mike Bridgman wants regulations to be changed so that every building that stores high-volume alcohol has to have sprinklers fitted in case it causes a major fire.

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He wants the changes in order to prevent more lethal fires that risk the lives of firefighters and residents who live near pubs.

The inquiry into the circumstances of Ewan's death is continuing but Cllr Bridgman, convener of the Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Board, said: "A lot of old buildings in Edinburgh have archaic flooring systems with girders and slats over them and that is how the Balmoral bar fire spread.

"We are living in a modern age, with technology and systems to try to prevent the damage that fire causes. Sprinklers should be considered by building standards (for pubs] because of the levels of alcohol content, which is highly flammable.

"It makes sense to review these in light of the lessons that can be learned and to help prevent people, including our fire crews, from becoming casualties of fire."

Cllr Bridgman, an SNP councillor, is now expected to ask Jimmy Campbell, chief fire officer for Edinburgh and the Lothians, if he will assist with an attempt to make sprinklers compulsory in licensed premises.

Such a move would require the Scottish Government to change existing building regulations.

Existing legislation requires some buildings, including shopping centres and hospitals, to install sprinklers - yet there is no obligation for pub or off licence operators to install them.

Labour councillor Eric Barry, a member of the city's licensing board, said: "One of the five duties we have (as a board] is securing public health. If someone wanted to come in and store petrol under your flat you would say 'no chance, I'm getting the police'. Yet storing the same amount of whisky seems to be OK.

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"We should look at changes to the building regulations to ensure that, for the storage of alcohol, you should install sprinklers.

"You want to see a continuing trend of deaths from fire coming down and, if you store hazardous substances, you have a duty to ensure safety."

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: "Sprinkler systems can reduce the risk to life from fire and the cost of damage or loss of property."We would support installation in commercial and domestic properties for this reason and certainly encourage people to consider it as a way of mitigating the effects of a fire."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "There are already stringent building standards in place to enhance fire safety. These are kept under regular review and we would consider any suggestions for change."


THE Evening News is continuing to campaign for Ewan Williamson to be awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal for his bravery.

More than 3000 people have signed our petition to honour the 35-year-old, who died helping to rescue residents from the flats above the blaze.

The application, submitted by Alistair Darling MP, is being considered by the Honours and Appointments Secretariat.

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