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Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service urges nightclubs on fire safety

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is urging licensed establishments to observe fire safety norms this festive season
Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is urging premises managers to review their fire safety procedures

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service is urging managers of licensed establishments to review their fire safety measures to ensure compliance with fire safety law.

The measure comes in the aftermath of a disastrous fire in Russia and a smaller restaurant fire in Swansea and the successful prosecution of a local nightclub owner.

In the run up to Christmas and the New Year many premises will be gearing up for a massive influx of revelers and in keeping with the party season many premises will be decorated in a variety of colourful and exciting styles to attract party goers who are out for a fun, safe and enjoyable time.

The last thing anyone wants is for a fire or other emergency to claim lives and injure loved ones which is why the Fire and Rescue Service is urging premises managers and licensees to review their fire safety procedures to prevent such incidents, especially at this festive time when premises will be fuller than usual.

Just a few days ago in the Russian city of Perm at least 113 people died with more than 140 people injured following a fire at a nightclub. These figures are expected to rise. Emergency services reported that fireworks were let off within the premises causing a plastic ceiling to catch fire. In the ensuing fire people panicked and succumbed to burns, crush injuries and smoke inhalation. Witnesses reported that when the fire began "the flames took seconds to spread and that there was only one way out". Others reported seeing flaming drops falling off the ceiling and a lot of smoke with a huge flame moving along the ceiling. A spokesman for the prosecutor-general's main investigative unit said "It was not a terrorist attack; we are talking about a failure to observe fire regulations." The Russian government has set up a special commission to deal with the incident.

Closer to home but not on the same catastrophic scale as the fire in Russia, on Sunday 6th December in Wind Street, Swansea, a fire broke out in the external fascia of a ground floor restaurant causing heavy smoke-logging to the first and second floor accommodation areas. Fire-fighters wearing breathing apparatus rescued two people who required medical treatment from our colleagues in the ambulance service for smoke-inhalation. Hopefully
their injuries are not too severe and they will make a full recovery.

"Breaches of fire safety regulations were a serious matter and the Service would not hesitate in bringing prosecutions against owners of businesses"

Employers, managers, occupiers and owners of licensed premises have a moral and legal duty to ensure the safety of people who enter their premises. To assume that "fires happen to others" or that "it couldn´t happen here" is considered a very naive and dangerous attitude by firefighters who witness these types of events far too frequently. Compliance with fire safety regulations is a collective responsibility and to ensure that regulations are being maintained Fire Safety Officers regularly visit and inspect premises as part of an enforcement program.

Additionally during this festive period Fire Safety Officers will also undertake spot checks of such premises, day and night to ensure that both patrons and staff remain safe from fire.

The Head of Legislative Fire Safety for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, Group Manager David Phillips said, "Breaches of fire safety regulations were a serious matter and the Service would not hesitate in bringing prosecutions against owners of businesses who did not comply with fire safety law". Mr Phillips went on to say that "Fire Safety Officers would always work with and assist responsible business owners to ensure that they complied with the law to keep their premises safe but would prosecute in the interests of public safety".

As an example, on Monday 23rd November 2009 at Llanelli Magistrates Court, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority brought a successful prosecution against the owner of a licensed premises for breaching a Prohibition Notice served under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 on two separate occasions.

"We would much prefer owners spent their money on improving fire safety measures instead of paying fines and legal costs"

Lead Counsel advising the Fire Authority was Mr David Stotesbury of Lauderdale Chambers, London. The case was presented for sentencing purposes by Mr Ernest Wollner.

The prosecution was brought by the Fire and Rescue Authority because the owner was flagrantly exceeding the safe capacity for his premises which had been restricted by a Prohibition Notice. It was the opinion of Fire Safety Inspecting Officers who had visited the premises on a number of occasions, that exceeding the specified capacity put persons on the premises at serious risk of death or injury if a fire had broken out.

The owner had failed to attend court on two occasions to answer the summons and a warrant for his arrest was issued by the magistrates. He was brought before the court and pleaded guilty to the charges. The magistrates fined him £2,000 and awarded costs of £4,500 against him.

Mr Phillips added, "We prosecute people as a last resort. We would much prefer owners spent their money on improving fire safety measures instead of paying fines and Legal Costs. A person who loses in court faces the prospect of a fine and a criminal record and will still have to undertake the fire safety work we require."

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