Call for review of regulations for multi-storey car parks

Bill for damage after fire at Douglas Village Shopping Centre could top €10m

The scene on Sunday morning in the Douglas Village Multi-Storey car park where more than 60 vehicles were damaged in a large fire. Video: Cork Fire Brigade

 

The Government has been urged to review building regulations for multi-storey car parks following a fire that caused an estimated €10 million of damage in Cork.

Cork City Fire Brigade said on Monday there was no sprinkler system in Douglas Village Shopping Centre car park, which was badly damaged on Saturday evening after a car burst into flames. The fire spread rapidly, destroying up to 60 other vehicles.

Gardaí are satisfied the blaze started accidentally.

The shopping centre has been closed to the public until further notice and about 150 undamaged vehicles remain in the car park. Damage to the access ramps means they may have to be removed by crane.

Eamon Downey, of loss assessors Owens McCarthy, said the incident should prompt an immediate review of fire-safety regulations for such buildings, particularly in terms of fire suppressants.

“This incident has highlighted the dangers of buildings like this. We have to look at our building regs and fire suppressants – even if we have the older style sprinkler systems we would have saved an awful lot,” said Mr Downey.

Building regulations for multi-storey car parks do not require a sprinkler system.

Mr Downey said he believed insurance claims from the 50 or so businesses in the shopping centre could reach €12 million, going by a preliminary examination of the damage.

“Certainly looking at the way that some of the steel girders in the multi-storey buckled, the building has clearly suffered significant structural damage so the question then is – can the damaged part be replaced or does the entire centre have to come down?”

Four months

Mr Downey said it could be two weeks before the insurance companies hand back the building after assessment and it may take another three or four weeks to price the repair work. If demolition is confined to just a portion, it might be completed in four months.

However, if the entire multi-storey car park has to be demolished and, if this in turn requires the demolition of the shopping centre on the ground floor, then the rebuild could take more than a year to complete, he estimated.

Mr Downey said that in addition to damage to fixtures, fittings and stock, many companies would have business interruption policies which would allow them to claim for loss of earnings through the business being damaged or inaccessible even if not damaged.

Supt Colm O’Sullivan said the building had been deemed too dangerous to allow Garda technical experts to fully examine the car which they believed started the blaze so it may be sometime before they can confirm the model.

“We can trace the source of the fire to the people carrier but until we can identify the chassis number from that vehicle we cannot positively identify the make of the vehicle involved,” he said.