The news that a twenty-eight storey apartment block in Shanghai has burned out must be pretty worrying for everyone involved in hight-rise structures. For years those who believe they can 'risk assess' or 'fire engineer' away the problem of fire in these structures have clashed - it must be said with the tacit support of civil servants and politicians - with those of us who have actually had to try and deal with fire in them. It is often argued that the "Societal Costs" of putting in sprinklers and other defensive measures outweigh the "Cost/Benefit" to the occupier and owner.
Let's try telling that to the crews who had to try and fight this latest fire, to the 53 (and rising dead) and the several hundred people now homeless because this building didn't have any fire defences. It was being refurbished as well and the fire seems to have started externally, then spread rapidly up the scaffolding and into the building. To any fire fighter, the sight of fire service personell trying to direct jest of water from neighbouring buildings into burning floors well above the height of any sensible high-reach appliance speaks far more loudly for the installation of sprinklers and fire barriers than any accountants claim that it is a waste of money.
Let's hope that this fire turns out to be the same sort of wake-up call that the Joelma Building, Summerland and others were in the 1970's.