Natural Resources Minister Carl Sargeant visited a housing development in St. Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan, where fire sprinklers are being installed as part of the Welsh Government fire sprinkler pilot study scheme. A new law comes in to force from January 1, 2016, that requires all new and converted housing in Wales to be fitted with fire sprinkler systems.

There are twelve schemes involved in the pilot study, with 175 sprinkler installations across Wales. The developments include detached, semi-detached and terraced houses and also flats, with the schemes consisting of eleven housing association projects and one major house building project.

A variety of data in relation to design and site installation on all of the schemes that have commenced has also been collated by Building Research Establishment (BRE) through site visits and interviews with the key stakeholders. An interim study report is to be published in early December 2015 and a final report due in Summer 2016.

Carl Sargeant said: “I am very pleased to be able to visit the development at St. Athan and to see the Welsh Government sprinkler pilot study work in progress.

“Our analysis has shown that installing sprinklers in new homes reduces avoidable death or injury arising from fires, and therefore, from January 1, 2016 all new and converted houses and flats in Wales will need to install fire sprinklers.

“The installation of fire sprinkler systems will go a long way towards minimising the risk of fire devastation. They are proven to help save lives.

“Installing sprinklers increase initial construction costs in the short term, but the reduced risk of damage to the property, combined with their proven ability to save lives, make them a cost effective means of fire control in new homes.”

Huw Jakeway, Chief Fire Officer, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) said: “Fire sprinklers save lives and enhance the safety of occupants and Firefighters and as such we have been actively engaged in the Welsh Government Sprinkler Pilot Study Steering Group and the introduction of Domestic Fire Safety (Wales) Measure.”

“Whilst the ownership of working domestic smoke alarms have had a substantial impact on fire deaths and injuries in the home more remains to be done. Statistics show that 53 per cent of fire deaths occur in the room where the fire started, this begs the question whether the victims of these fires were able to leave the room where the fire was, if they were not then clearly the only effective measure is one which controls or extinguishes the fire at a very early stage.

“In addition to this, there will also be considerable reductions in property damage, water usage and environmental impact. There is a belief that all sprinkler heads operate at the same time, this is a myth, in fact it is generally case that only one head operates and successfully extinguishes the fire before it develops.

“As a service, we support one of the highest life safety systems, and that is the installation of domestic sprinklers, which will ultimately increase the safety of the citizens and firefighters of Wales.”