Ocado Andover fire “unprecedented within the UK”

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The fire that destroyed Ocado’s warehouse in Andover in February 2019 cost Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service (HFRS) £132,107 to fight.

The figure was released following a Freedom of Information Act request by the BBC into the four day fire which burned from the 5th to 8th February 2019 and was declared a major incident twice.

The FoI also revealed that HFRS did not have the power to recover the charges from Ocado or its insurers.

A review costing £164,000 to look at the causes and development of the fire was also commissioned and funded by the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority (HFRA).

Furthermore, a report by the chief fire officer at HFRA has been published this week, providing more details.

The chief fire officer’s report stated that a fire in an industrial building with the specific automated technology as used by Ocado was “unprecedented within the UK” and there was a strong desire from all quarters – including Ocado – to prevent such a reoccurrence.

The report said that processes inside the building were highly automated, with over 1,000 robots picking customer shopping ordered online. Ocado, the report said, have taken their own learning from the incident and will be researching how systems integrated into their technologies can better prevent and detect fires.

In April 2019 it was determined that the fire at Ocado’s Andover fulfilment centre was caused by an electrical fault in a battery charging unit that caused the plastic lid on the top of a grocery carrying robot to catch alight. At the time Ocado said it had taken steps to eliminate the risk of such an event occurring again including additional localised smoke detectors and the removal of the plastic lid on its bots.

Ocado has promised to “build a state-of-the-art replacement facility”.

In August a small fire occurred at Ocado’s Erith customer fulfilment centre outside the building in a hopper containing waste packaging.

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