Fire Safety Guidance for Owners, Managers and Responsible Persons of Heritage Premises

We have some major historic buildings and landmarks throughout North Yorkshire and the City of York, the loss of which represents a loss which can never be replaced. As such, it is important that these buildings and their contents are protected from the damage that may result from a fire.

As a fire service we have plans for dealing with incidents at heritage buildings. We are also members of a regional heritage working group with neighbouring fire and rescue service which includes membership of Natural Trust, English Heritage and various estate managers etc.

However, if you are the owner or manager of a heritage building, there are some fairly simple actions you can take to protect the buildings and artefacts. These will lower the risk of your building being involved in an incident and limit the damage to your building and its contents.

Fire Risk assessment considerations

Assess the likelihood of fire occurring in your building by conducting a Fire Risk Assessment and consider:

Hidden voids – Historic buildings, and buildings that have been altered over the years, can often have large void spaces, where a fire can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Compartmentation surveys can be carried out to identify these voids, as well as remedial works like installing compartment walls.

Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) – Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) include wet sprinklers, water mist, and gas suppression systems. They can be used to compensate for limitations in historic buildings – where some items are not moveable or may be particularly rare or valuable. Consider installing an AFSS as part of your fire safety measures.

Hot works – welding, soldering, cutting – Hot works include any work using open flames, or creating sparks or heat e.g. welding, grinding and soldering. A permit must be prepared before carrying out hot works. As this type of work increases fire risk, it should be avoided if possible, but if not, the conditions of the permit must be followed. Key points to consider are appointing good contractors, identifying risks and taking precautions.

Establish procedures – To minimise the risk of a fire starting, establish procedures to ensure that:

  • Measures are in place to reduce the risk of restoration and preservation processes (e.g. using linseed oil and cotton cloths) causing spontaneous combustion.
  • Smoking and naked flames are strictly controlled or banned entirely.
  • Portable appliances are regularly tested and well maintained.
  • Electrical and gas services are isolated before the building is closed.
  • Bins are stored away from external walls (to reduce arson risk)