An Incotex technician checks a fire fighting installation. SUR
Deadly blaze in Valencia sparks more interest in safety checks for Malaga apartment blocks

Deadly blaze in Valencia sparks more interest in safety checks for Malaga apartment blocks

There has been a surge in demand for inspections and the installation or upgrading of fire protection systems in the province

Chus Heredia


Monday, 25 March 2024, 15:47


Serious incidents always trigger concern about the same thing happening again. And the latest alarm in Spain comes after the deadly fire in the Campanar neighbourhood in Valencia, which spread with unprecedented force and killed 10 people. It's sparked interest among residents' associations in reviewing or updating security measures. The Malaga Association of Property Administrators and companies such as Goextín and Incontex confirmed to SUR this has been a growing concern since the Valencia fire happened on 22 February.

Goextín is a part of the Servihogar Group. Mario Martín said enquiries for safety checks have multiplied, including one enquiry about a garage inspection even though one was not compulsory due to the year it was built. "People are worried, he said.

Some without fire extinguishers, oddly enough

"The most basic thing is that there are communities that, believe it or not, do not have fire extinguishers, because until 1996 it was not compulsory. And there is also a growing interest in fire detection systems," Martín pointed out.

Javier Fernández Arce, deputy director of Incotex, a Malaga-based company specialising in fire protection systems, said: "Since Valencia happened, we have noticed a lot more interest. It is something that is required by law but nobody wants to use it. There is also a lack of knowledge about the regulations," he said. "There is rarely a call with community administrators in which the subject of fires doesn't come up," he added.

Many security alarm companies also offer deals to install fire alarm systems. "We are overwhelmed," said one Securitas technician.

The main request: overall safety check

Fernández Arce said although it may come as a surprise, there are no regulations that make it compulsory to have an alarm, except in garage areas: "It seems like it will never happen to us and we don't want to spend money, but when these things happen, the need is triggered," he added. However, he pointed out many residential communities are already going beyond the legal requirement for extinguishers and are incorporating, for example, fire hoses. "The main request we are getting is to check the state of everything," Fernández Arce said.

Quarterly checks of fire extinguishers are simple and can be carried out by the community itself. Annual inspections must be carried out by a specialised company
Quarterly checks of fire extinguishers are simple and can be carried out by the community itself. Annual inspections must be carried out by a specialised company SUR

He reminded people the importance of checking fire extinguishers. They have to have quarterly inspections, which can be carried out by the community itself with the aid of a manual, or they can be outsourced. Then, there are other annual mandatory checks which must be carried out by specialised companies. "Few communities bother with quarterly inspections. More than 90% do not," he said.

'What happened in Valencia was out of the ordinary'

In any case, Fernández Arce urged people to remain calm: "What happened in Valencia was out of the ordinary". Incotex pointed out that, in conversations with firefighters across different areas, they have expressed concerns about tall, old buildings. It opens up a new avenue to which, in their opinion, attention should be paid to garages where electric and hybrid vehicles and their chargers increasingly coexist with other fossil fuel vehicles. "If electric scooter batteries are exploding and have been banned in some forms of public transport, imagine what could happen in the case of cars," Fernández Arce said.

Measures and budgets

Since 1996 it has been mandatory for all residential buildings to have one fire extinguisher per floor. "One measure I would welcome is the installation of detectors in dwellings. In the UK, for example, this is already compulsory," Fernández Arce added.

A technician checks an alarm system.
A technician checks an alarm system. SUR

The central unit for a basic system with a fire control panel for five floors, would cost about 400 euros, add on 80 for each detector, that's about 1,000 euros for a building with five floors and five detectors. The annual maintenance fee is around 50 or 60 euros.

The four steps of fire safety

First, the fire extinguishers. The second, garage areas with smoke and fire alarms. The third, fire hoses. The fourth, sprinkler systems, just as you see in commercial buildings and in other countries.

Training is also important: "We are trying to reach out to people. Do I know how to use what I have? We are going to propose that communities set up basic training sessions," Fernández Arce said. And remember that using a fire extinguisher requires a certain level of physical capacity. It weighs around nine kilos and has a recoil when you activate it. "I always say, before you grab the fire extinguisher, get to safety. Starting with you. It's the basic rule in any fire. You get out of the way and call the fire brigade. But, if you can see that there is no danger, then yes, use the equipment," he pointed out.

Call for calm

The Malaga and Melilla Association of Property Administrators repeats its call for calm in the face of a possible repeat of the deadly Valencia fire. All communities must comply with fire protection installation regulations, which have been in force since 2017. Properties built after 6 May 2000 have a building book in which all the technical characteristics and use of the fire protection installations are detailed. In addition, to access financial grants such as through the Next Generation funds, it is necessary to have a building book, which is why many communities are requesting them.

In addition, Malaga city hall obliges buildings that are more than 50 years old to carry out an ITE, an inspection which helps detect faults that could contribute to the spread of fire in the event of one breaking out.

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