Fire Service warning about the risk of fires at unoccupied and derelict premises

Building owners are being warned by the Fire Service about the risk of fires at unoccupied and derelict premises after a rise in incidents.

Firefighters were called to a blaze at an unoccupied building at Mulgrave Terrace in Gateshead, twice over the weekend and have had frequent call outs to the former Farringdon Police Station site.

With some businesses not re-opening yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service is reminding building owners, leaseholders or duty holders, of their responsibilities, in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and of the importance of a Fire Risk Assessment.

Richie Rickaby Area Manager for Community Safety at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “Fires in unoccupied or derelict buildings can present problems to firefighters that don’t occur in occupied premises such as an unsafe structure due to vandalism, aging and decay, the removal of internal fittings including stairs and doorways, or if there have previously been small fires leaving hazardous conditions.

“These buildings also offer an opportunity for people, including children, to enter, exposing themselves to the dangers within. These hazards can have serious consequences, potentially resulting in severe or even fatal injuries.

“Where we assess that there is an undue risk of harm from entering an empty building, a decision may be taken to fight a fire from outside only. Potentially, this could result in increased damage to the building from fire, smoke and water and a greater impact on the environment due to prolonged firefighting activities.”

Fire engine and firefighters shown outside Mulgrave Terrace

As well as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, the Fire Service would remind those responsible for such premises that The Occupiers’ Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 imposes on those responsible for properties a duty of care to visitors and trespassers’.

The Fire Risk Assessment should therefore consider arson and the measures to reduce the risk of arson on the premises. This may include:

  • Regular inspections of unoccupied buildings to ensure that the building remains secure, and vandals or severe weather have not caused damage
  • Inspections undertaken at intervals not normally exceeding seven days. Each visit should be recorded, preferably electronically to provide an audit trail
  • Any incidents or damage should be recorded, together with action taken to remedy the incident/damage
  • Ensuring any boundary fence is in good repair and gates are secured
  • Removal of any combustible materials from around the perimeter of the site
  • Securing external doors by protecting with proprietary locking steel screens which fit over existing doors. Alternatively in high-risk areas, secure openings with internal brick or blockwork
  • Protecting glazed panels with perforated steel screens or alternatively brick or blockwork.

TWFRS will investigate fires where applicable, if there is evidence to suggest a neglect of duty on behalf of the Responsible Person, they will use all of their powers to pursue those responsible through the judicial system.

Further information can be found on our website

For advice, please contact us:

Newcastle and North Tyneside – 0191 444 1002/1004

Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland – 0191 444 1249/1264

From 22 March to 23 August 2020 TWFRS have dealt with 25 incidents at derelict buildings.