At CJK Fire & Safety we have been contacted by clients this week asking about the Pacific Hotel Fire in Cairns CBD that occurred in the morning of Sunday, the 28th November 2021.
The Police have praised the hotel staff for having facilitated evacuation of 163 people within 5 minutes from alarm activation. This shows that a maintained fire detection and alarm system as well as staff training are crucial in a building fire.
The fire occurred within a top-floor unit and has spread to the neighboring room. There have also been reports that smoke entered one of the fire stairs. Whilst we have only limited information about the fire and the reasons for fire and smoke spread, the fire behavior reported could be an indication that fire separation on the top floor did not performed as it would be expected in a scenario like this.
The subject building was constructed in 1983 and from our experience, multi-storey buildings around Cairns built in that era were provided with fire-resisting ceilings to facilitate fire separation on the top-most floors. Whilst this is a commonly used method which is permitted by the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions of the Building Code of Australia, post-construction renovations often lead to a compromised performance. Renovation works often include replacement of a lighting system (i.e. installation of downlights) or installation of new air-conditioning systems. Unfortunately, such works often end up with unprotected openings in fire-resisting ceilings. Products of combustion such as smoke and fire can then enter the roof space from where it can spread into other areas of a building.
Besides having a functional and maintained smoke detection and alarm system and other active fire protection systems, it is important to ensure the passive fire safety systems, such as fire resisting doors, walls, floors and ceilings are compliant with any openings correctly sealed.
Over the past 12 months Fire Safety Engineers at CJK Fire & Safety have been working with building owners to assess and rectify defects and non-compliances in relation to fire resisting ceilings. We invite building owners and associated managers to reach out and discuss their building fire safety strategies and compliance status. We are working closely with experienced local fire protection experts and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to improve the level of building fire safety and protect their occupants.