Jotun Factory, Norway
Paint factory destroyed, six lives lost and over $16m US dollars in damages in tragic fire. Almost forty-five years later, tragedy strikes again and another massive fire tries to consume the building, but was averted due to effective compartmentation with passive fire protection systems.
A leak in Jotun’s paint factory in Sandefjord, Norway, developed into a devastating fire 45 years ago. The tragedy led to changes in Government regulations of buildings containing dangerous chemicals, and new laws were introduced enforcing technical requirements.
Jotun since rebuilt the factory according to these new regulations. Designs for the new factory specified Protecta fire protection products for fire compartmentation of the new factory.
Exactly 45 years later Jotun burnt again
On September 15th 2021, a fire ignited in the main boiler room in the new factory. Witnesses described explosions early in the course of the fire, Flames and a massive cloud of black toxic smoke could be seen from afar. The Fire Department feared the fire would spread to the neighbouring buildings and cause mass destruction.
An inquest revealed extinguishing mechanisms (automated foam extinguishers etc.) didn’t work as designed. This meant the fire could escalate rapidly. This was even more volatile due to stored oil and other highly combustible chemicals.
The fire was vicious, but after only two and a half hours the Fire Department had full control and no one was seriously injured. Passive fire protection restricted the fire to the boiler room in which it started. In fact, a local firefighter reported no traces of smoke or gas leaking to surrounding areas.
When the factory was rebuilt, Thermax AS, who specialises in fire safety installations installed the fire stopping systems in the boiler room. For passive fire protection they used Protecta FR Acrylic and Protecta FR Board for the service penetrations. These were supplied by Polyseam AS, Protecta’s local distributor; all products are manufactured in the UK by Polyseam.
A major advantage of passive fire protection is that it’s part of the construction and needs little maintenance. Passive fire protection saves lives, properties and assets if installed correctly.
“For us who lived near the Jotun factory, the catastrophic evening in 1976 is something we will always remember from the past. It was mesmerizing to experience the enormous destructive forces in such a fire close by.
The report from The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (who reports to the Ministry of Justice) after the last fire, and media, concluded that the “Fire safety failed in the Jotun fire,” but I can only partially agree.
The active safety instalments failed, but the passive fire protection worked very well and hindered a much larger fire and loss of surrounding rooms and buildings.”
Jørn Davidsen, Managing Director – Norway, Polyseam AS
We rarely, if ever, hear about reduced damages in buildings due to a well-functioning fire compartmentation. So, it’s important to highlight a real-life fire scenario when possible. In this case, passive fire protection was crucial. Not only by reducing property damage, but by allowing staff time to evacuate safely.
Unfortunately, it is not the first-time automatic extinguishing equipment didn’t work as intended in a fire. Polyseam urge designers to include passive fire protection in their building plans, alongside any active fire protection. Should something fail, the passive measures are crucial for the consequences in a fire situation. Companies installing fire protection should be included in the planning of the projects. The earlier this happens; the more cost and safety efficient solutions are available.
The story of this factory in Norway proves that passive fire protection can be the difference between a small fire and a deadly one. A fire that killed 6 people and destroyed a building 45 years ago, was contained in the boiler room today. The key difference is the impact of passive fire protection in stopping the spread of the fire. Protecta recognised the importance of passive fire protection and invest heavily in product development, testing and certification to ensure that people have the best options available to help reduce damage to property and most importantly save lives.
Paint factory destroyed, six lives lost and over $16m US dollars in damages in tragic fire. Almost forty five years later, tragedy strikes again and another massive fire tries to consume the building, but was averted due to effective compartmentalisation with passive fire protection systems.
Products used:Protecta FR Acrylic, Protecta FR Board
Products supplied by Polyseam