Fire chief's sprinkler plea

A FIRE chief is calling for compulsory sprinkler systems for new homes in the wake of a house blaze which killed a young Sussex firefighter.

Off-duty firefighter Alex Kent, 25, died while trying to rescue his brother Philip, 23, from their burning home in Crowborough, on January 8. He had already led his parents to safety and dialled 999.

A smoke detector could be clearly heard sounding on a tape of the telephone call. But this warning alone was not enough to save the men.

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East Sussex Fire Brigade chief fire officer Desmond Prichard said: 'Whilst we do not know what happened during the next few minutes, we do know that attempts were made in the first instance by neighbours and very soon after, by the Fire Brigade, to rescue the two young men.

'Sadly, even though the first firefighters to enter the premises found the brothers and effected a rescue, injuries caused by the effects of fire and hot gasses proved to be fatal.'

All new houses or those undergoing major refurbishment should be fitted with sprinkler systems to prevent a tragedy like this happening again, said the fire chief.

'The government has announced a major house building programme over the next decade. These properties will be fitted with modern door and window security systems, wall and roof insulation to promote energy saving and will be built to new environmental standards.

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'There will be hard-wired smoke detectors to give occupants early warning of any fire that may break out. But this is simply not enough, it will not prevent approximately 400 people dying each year in domestic property fires.'

He added: 'No matter how quickly the Fire Brigade arrive the destructive and all encompassing nature of a uncontrolled fire will mean people will continue to die, children will lose parents and families will face the trauma of death and the longer term impact of fire breaking out in their homes.'