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'They have ignored my advice but must instal sprinklers'
12:00pm Wednesday 30th October 2013 in News
FIRE safety at an immigration detention centre is to be finally reviewed by the Home Office after another demand by the county’s fire chief.
Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer Dave Etheridge has again urged that a sprinkler system is installed at Campsfield House near Kidlington following a blaze there 12 days ago.
And he said that if Home Office officials had followed his recommendations six year ago, the ferocity of this latest blaze could have been reduced.
A large fire broke out at the Langford Lane centre on October 18 which led to more than 100 detainees being moved to other centres and 60 firefighters tackling the blaze.
Mr Etheridge said the impact of the possible arson attack at the high risk centre, which saw two detainees injured, could have been reduced. He explained: “We believe that if our advice to install sprinklers had been followed in 2007 then the latest incident would not have been on the same scale as it was.
“There is a man with serious injuries in hospital and that could have been avoided.”
He added: “The people here are on their way out of the country and because of that actions are more likely to be taken that lead to incidents such as this.
“The knock-on effect of a large fire here affects the whole county.
“On that night, because we had to send 10 fire engines, there were seven or eight stations across the county without cover.”
He first wrote to the Home Office in 2007 to urge it to install sprinklers at Campsfield, but nothing was done.
There is no legal requirement to fit sprinklers but the Home Office must abide by building and fire safety regulations.
It has now confirmed it is reviewing fire safety arrangements at the centre. A spokeswoman told the Oxford Mail: “We take the welfare of detainees extremely seriously and comply with all relevant fire safety legislation. We will be conducting a comprehensive review of fire safety arrangements.”
The review has been welcomed by a campaign group who on Saturday staged a demonstration outside the centre. Liz Peretz, of the Campaign to Close Campsfield House, said: “What I do hope it means is immediate action so we don’t leave these vulnerable people who we have a duty of care for in insufficient conditions.”
DETENTION CENTRE FACTS
- There are 216 detainees
- It was opened in November 1993 to house immigrants before they are deported
- It came under criticism in July when it was revealed a child was held there for up to three months earlier this year
- Last year, about 13 men awaiting deportation were reported to be on hunger strike
- There was a riot at the centre in 2008 A fire in 2007 led to 14 men escaping