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Last Updated: Sunday, 13 February, 2005, 16:13 GMT
Yarl's Wood 'lessons not learnt'
Yarl's Wood centre ablaze
A fire and riot destroyed half of the 100m asylum centre
A Bedfordshire fire chief has warned that another Yarl's Wood type disaster could happen if the Home Office fails to learn fire prevention lessons.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller raised his concerns the day before Monday's third anniversary of the centre fire.

He is unhappy that the government is not planning to install sprinklers in new prisons in Cambs and Surrey.

The Home Office said that sprinklers could be used as ligature points from which prisoners could hang themselves.

Bedfordshire and Luton Fire Service was involved in helping to fight the fire at the centre - built to house asylum seekers - on 14 February 2002, just three months after it opened.

More than 100 firefighters fought the blaze, which caused 43m of damage.

Yarl's wood
More than 100 firefighters fought the blaze

Mr Fuller said his counterparts in Cambridgeshire and Surrey are now fighting for sprinklers to be installed in new build prisons in those counties.

"Prisons and detention centres are Crown property and therefore we, as the local Fire Authority, have no power to enforce fire standards," he said.

"But in buildings where people are under lock and key, and therefore unable to make their own escape, sprinklers are essential to save life and protect property worth millions."

Chief Fire Officer for Cambridgeshire, Tom Carroll said: "The Fire Authority recommended that sprinklers be installed in the new prison being built in Peterborough.
Fitting a sprinkler attachment in cells would introduce a ligature point, at a time when the Prison Service is driving towards safer custody and introducing 'safer cells'
Home Office spokesman
"However our advice was not taken on board.

"One of the arguments put forward for not having sprinklers was that they could provide potential ligature points for inmates who wanted to hang themselves.

"However, advances in design of sprinkler heads means that this problem is nullified."

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "There are no sprinklers in residential accommodation in prisons in England and Wales, and there are no plans to install them either in existing or new prisons.

"There is no legal requirement for sprinklers to be fitted to residential areas of land-based prisons

"Fitting a sprinkler attachment in cells would introduce a ligature point, at a time when the Prison Service is driving towards safer custody and introducing 'safer cells'."

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08 Feb 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
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19 Jun 04 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
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16 Sep 03 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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