In the early of hours of this morning (Saturday 15th April 2017) Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service attended a fire at Parnham House, a 16th Elizabethan Mansion and one of the finest in Dorset if not in the country.
On their arrival at approximately 0425 hrs a well-established and substantial fire was in progress which eventually resulted in 20 fire appliances attending. Firefighting operations and damping down are likely to continue throughout the day. Fire investigation will clearly be high on their agenda now as the building may well be more accessible to investigators.
The blaze has almost destroyed the whole main building. No persons were injured and all occupants escaped safely.
This is yet another serious fire in a classic and highly important Grade 1 listed building and questions will be asked exactly how it happened and how the fire was not detected earlier and contained.
Fire protection in old and historic properties is a highly specialised area of work and in addition a costly process. All of the general fire safety principles applied in today’s modern structures cannot, in principle, be applied and it would be both impracticable and uneconomic to even consider changing the building to meet these standards, let alone destroy the character and history of the building.
Often, discreet and specially prepared fire protection materials and applications are applied to retain original features in attempt to initially contain the fire.
Highly advanced smoke and fire detection systems that continually monitor the air and observe temperature rises are available and can be fitted. In addition, fire suppression systems that disperse very high-pressure mists and sprays using very small quantities of water are also available; these often suppress and contain the fire whilst awaiting the attendance of fire crews to take over an extinguish the fire.
However, these advanced and technical facilities all come at a cost in selecting the best and most appropriate equipment for the building and then designing it for the building and installing it. And of course, the work and costs in maintaining it once in place.
All of this has to be agreed beforehand with English Heritage and the fire service, amongst others, which can often be something of a stumbling block between what is deemed to be suitable for fire protection and at the same time maintaining the look, image and character of building.
Fire of house fire is courtesy of Craig Baker Dorset and Wilts Fire and Rescue Service