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Fire in gun shop described as a 'death trap' sees company fined [pounds sterling]16,000; Keen's Tackle and Guns in Aberkenfig was seriously damaged in a blaze in November 2016.

Byline: Liz Day

The company behind a gun shop seriously damaged by a devastating blaze 15 months ago has received a hefty fine for breaching fire safety regulations.

Bridgend Trailercraft Limited was fined [pounds sterling]16,000 for failing to comply with a series of regulations at hunting and fishing shop Keen's Tackle and Guns in Aberkenfig.

Opening the case atCardiff Crown Court, prosecutor Klentiana Mahmutaj described the premises as "a death trap".

The court heardSouth Wales Fire and Rescue Servicewere called to the incident at the two-storey shop in Bridgend Road on November 8, 2016.

Neighbouring properties were evacuated as a precaution and the road was closed due to the presence of shotgun cartridges and other combustible materials.

Road closed as police investigate fire at tackle and gun shop

Prosecutors said there was a post-fire inspection the next day, which revealed a number of failings to comply with various safety measures.

Ms Mahmutaj told the court there was no fire detection equipment present, staff had not received the necessary training, and there was no appropriate risk assessment in place.

Director Jeffrey Keen was interviewed on June 21 last year and confirmed he employed nine members of staff.

He said the company had a fire inspection 20 years ago and complied with all requirements at the time.

Mr Keen stated he believed companies needed advice, which should be provided by the fire service.

Prosecutors said guidance for companies was available for free online.

Ms Mahmutaj argued Bridgend Trailercraft Limited showed "a complete unawareness" of its responsibilities.

Prosecutors alleged the failings were likely to cause a risk of death or serious injury.

Ms Mahmutaj added: "There was consistent failure to observe several very important fire safety measures for a very long period of time."

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Bridgend Trailercraft Limited admitted four counts of failing to comply with fire safety regulations.

Alex Greenwood, defending, accepted the company was not "up to speed" with the regulations but said no-one was injured as a result.

He told the court it was a small, family-run business with long-serving employees who were all familiar with the building.

Judge Michael Fitton QC noted the "series of failings" did not cause the fire, which started as a result of a water leak into wiring.

He also noted the company spent about [pounds sterling]50,000 on "extensive work" to remedy the problems. He fined them [pounds sterling]16,000.

The store has been refurbished and will re-open on March 1.

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Alison Kibblewhite, head of risk reduction forSouth Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: "It is only down to chance that nobody was killed or seriously injured in this incident."

She said the outcome of the case reflected the seriousness of fire safety shortcomings at the premises.

Ms Kibblewhite said the service would have preferred to work with the business but was left with "no option" but to prosecute in the circumstances.

She explained The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order has been in force since 2006 and those responsible must comply with its requirements.

Ms Kibblewhite said: "Part of our role in business fire safety is to ensure those in our communities are safe -- at work or visiting these type of premises.

"Whether you are an employer, owner, landlord, occupier or building manager, you have a legal duty to ensure your business is fully compliant with the Fire Safety Order.

"In addition to the obvious risks to life, you may be forced to pay a fine for any safety breaches."

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Credit: Abby Bolter

Keen's Tackle Shop in Aberkenfig, near Bridgend, which was damaged by a fire
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Publication:Wales Online (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 23, 2018
Words:625
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