Joint teams from Bulgaria’s Military Medical Academy and the firefighting service held an exercise on June 22 on evacuating and rescuing people from a fire in a multi-storey building.
In the scenario for the drill, special equipment was used to evacuate six people from a burning building.
In the course of the “evacuation”, all the building’s emergency exits were tested. One of those “rescued” was taken from the building using a mechanical ladder to reach the seventh floor of the Military Medical Academy. The ladder is 40 metres high and is the only one in Sofia.
In the exercise, the fire was contained within five minutes and the total evacuation took 12 minutes.
Commissioner Vassil Angelov, head of the fourth district of Sofia firefighting department, said that in the case of a fire in a high building, the “critical point” for firefighters was the 30 to 40 metre limit.
“We all saw that recently in the city of London there was a fire in a tall building, and this here is one of the most significant hospitals in the country, with tall buildings. What is essential and everyone should know is, is to remain calm, not to panic. The teams and equipment of the firefighters reacted 40 to 60 seconds after the signal was given,” Angelov said.
Angelov was referring to the June 14 fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower building in London, in which 79 people so far are confirmed or suspected to have died.
A principal cause of the Grenfell Tower inferno spreading so quickly is suspected to have been the cladding on the building.
In Bulgaria, there has been a government programme in recent years to put cladding on ageing communist-era panel apartment buildings. There has been no statement yet from Bulgarian authorities as to whether the cladding has been assessed for risk of fire, or whether it will be, against the background of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.