When is a fire barrier required?

Contrary to general opinion, a fire barrier is not there to stop an oil tank fire spreading to a neighbouring building or adjacent boundary but is to protect the oil tank from a fire originating from within a building.

Current regulations across the UK and Ireland require fire separation distances to be observed when placing a new oil tank. Domestic tanks should be sited:

  • 1.8m away from non-fire rated eaves of a building
  • 1.8m away from a non-fire rated building or structure (e.g. garden sheds)
  • 1.8m away from openings (such as doors or windows) in a fire rated building or structure (e.g. brick built house/garage)
  • 1.8m away from oil fired appliance flue terminals
  • 760mm away from a non-fire rated boundary such as a wooden boundary fence
  • 600mm away from screening (e.g. trellis and foliage) that does not form part of the boundary.

If it is not possible to comply with these requirements, then a fire protection barrier with at least 30 minutes fire rating should be provided. A minimum separation distance of 100mm is required between the tank and fire rated barrier unless a larger distance is specified by the tank manufacturer.

Locally-made solution

One company has developed its own solution to fire barriers after finding difficulties sourcing a locally made product. That company is H&A Mechanical Services which was established in 1993, initially delivering mechanical and electrical services within the social housing market throughout Ireland.

Following major contract wins and their subsequent successful delivery, H&A has established a reputation for quality of workmanship and expertise in its particular field. The business has further diversified into renewable technologies, refurbishment programmes and ECM, and since 2010 has operated a metal fabrication facility in Desertmartin, County Derry.

H&A’s Mark Williamson commented: “We opened a fabrication plant to provide H&A with ‘in house’ solution for various aspects of projects to include such things as fire protection barriers, trunking, boiler houses, fire valve and tiger loop covers.

“Through developing these products and supported by substantial investment in plant, machinery and human resources, we now have a unique manufacturing facility which has the capacity to develop these products to the wider market.

“Oil is a very safe fuel, if stored correctly. Tank protection has become a primary focus for us as we have seen the damage that can result from an oil tank fire.”

H&A’s fire protection barriers are fully compliant with current industry regulations and have been tested to comply with BS476 Part 22 for integrity and insulation. Standard stock sizes are 1800mm x 1400mm and1800mm x 1100mm and the manufacturing plant has the facility to produce bespoke product to meet most specific situations.