Man arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after Luton Airport fire destroys 1,500 cars

23 October 2023, 09:41

Police have arrested a man in connection with the Luton Airport fire
Police have arrested a man in connection with the Luton Airport fire. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Police investigating a fire that destroyed over 1,000 cars at Luton Airport have arrested a man on suspicion of criminal damage.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Luton fire, which broke out on level three of the airport's multi-storey car park, is thought to have started in a diesel car and spread rapidly, causing structural damage and destroying as many as 1,500 cars.

Some 235 flights were cancelled, affecting around 40,000 passengers.

Police have now said that they have arrested a man in connection with the fire.

A spokesman for Bedfordshire Police said: 'Police last week arrested a man in his 30s on suspicion of criminal damage in connection to their investigation into a significant fire in a car park at London Luton Airport on Tuesday (10 October).

"We are carrying out a thorough and diligent investigation into all potential lines of enquiry, as should be expected after such a major event.

"The man has been released on bail while our enquiries continue."

Read more: Dramatic footage shows the moment car bursts into flames inside Luton Airport car park, damaging 1,200 cars

Read more: Huge blaze rips through Luton Airport terminal car park

The wreckage of cars after the fire caused the car park to collapse
The wreckage of cars after the fire caused the car park to collapse. Picture: Alamy

The fire was shockingly similar to a blaze which destroyed the multi-storey car park at Liverpool's Echo arena in December 2017, which destroyed up to 1,600 vehicles.

LBC has been told the simple installation of sprinklers, called for following the Liverpool Echo arena car park fire, would have made it a "non-news event", and could have contained the fire to one vehicle. The structure was built two years after the Liverpool blaze in 2019.

The Fire Brigades Union described Luton as an "accident waiting to happen", and slammed the government and developers for failing to learn lessons from the 2017 New Year's Eve blaze, after Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) said it could have been stopped if sprinklers had been fitted in the building. They said it would have given crews a "much better" chance of limiting the damage.

Concerns were also raised about the structure of Liverpool car park because it's design should have been able to withstand fire for 15 minutes. MFRS said despite crews attending within eight minutes of the alarm, the flames spread so quickly they were not able to control the blaze. Luton Airport's terminal two car park was the same type of exposed-steelwork design.

Fire Brigades Union National Officer Riccardo la Torre told LBC it was "a fire of the exact same nature" and "lessons have not been learned". He said for as long as building regulations for exposed-steelwork multi-storey car parks remain unchanged "members of the public are at serious risk", and said no changes were made following the Liverpool blaze.

The Business Sprinkler Alliance, which is backed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, said it was "unsurprised" by the severity of the Luton Airport car park fire because sprinklers were not fitted in the structure.

Secretary Tom Roache told LBC: "Current regulatory guidance doesn't call for sprinklers in these buildings. It's based on thoughts and thinking from the 1980's and early 90's where cars were built very differently than they are today.

"More plastics in cars today means the propagation, the spreading of fire is more likely, which will lead to these larger configurations if there are no sprinklers."

He said if sprinklers had been fitted "we would have seen none of the disruption we're talking about, with all of those passengers, and to that local area and local community."

Mr Roache also warned of the dangers of a similar event happening in another multi-storey car park, saying: "What if that car park fire was in a building which was residential, with premises above where people are living and sleeping? We have car parks with shopping complexes and office complexes above - what does it mean for those?"

He called for the government to "think carefully" about protecting them, and urged ministers to order the installation of sprinklers in the structures.

Luton Airport said it was "too early to tell" whether a sprinkler system would have prevented any of the damage, as executives admitted it's highly unlikely any of the cars within the multi-storey will be recovered.

Director of Corporate Affairs Oliver Jaycock told LBC: "Underway now is a very large investigation that will examine every aspect of the fire, from how it originated to how it spread, and then ultimately contained. We'll await the findings from that investigation and take on any advice and guidance that's given."

He said the airport was supporting emergency services with the investigation and pledged to "see it through", but said customers with cars trapped in the structure have been told "the likelihood is nothing will be salvageable".

Burned out cars are pictured in a charred section of Luton Airport's Terminal 2 car park
Burned out cars are pictured in a charred section of Luton Airport's Terminal 2 car park. Picture: Getty

The government launched a major review of the fire safety guidance to building regulations, known as Approved Document B, following the Grenfell tower fire. It's being overseen by the Building Safety Regulator in the HSE and involves research in to the structural fire resistance of car parks.

It's currently for building designers, managers, and owners to determine whether particular circumstances of their building should go beyond the regulations.

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: "Public safety is our absolute priority - which is why we’re undertaking a major review of the fire safety guidance to the building regulations, including research on the fire resistance of car parks."

It's understood ministers intend to take the "necessary time to properly consider the research" before committing to changes.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Weather maps are turning red as a wave of heat makes a beeline for the UK, with temperatures set to soar across the country.

UK weather maps heat up as exact date 'North African plume' will see temperatures to hit 29C revealed

Conservatives have accused Keir Starmer of creating a £4.5billion tax black hole, casting doubt over their net zero spending plans.

Labour's net zero black hole? Tories accuse Starmer of £4.5bn budget shortfall as tax hikes loom

England beat Serbia 1-0 in tense first round Euro 2024 clash

England beat Serbia 1-0 after early goal from Jude Bellingham in tense first round Euro 2024 clash

England vs Serbia staring XI confirmed ahead of Three Lions' Euro 2024 clash

England vs Serbia staring XI confirmed as Gareth Southgate prepares for Three Lions' opening Euro 2024 clash

Police hunt 21-year-old man following death of boy, 12 in shocking hit-and-run

Police hunt 21-year-old man following death of boy, 12 in 'appalling' hit-and-run

Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting

Wes Streeting urges doctors not to strike amid claims manifesto is not the ‘sum total’ of Labour's NHS spending

Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen ahead of England and Serbia's first Euro 2024 match

Clashes erupt between football fans in Gelsenkirchen as England beat Serbia 1-0 in opening Euro 2024 game

Southwark council raised more than £2.6 million by issuing 43,300 fines to motorists

Labour council urged to refund motorists after ‘unfairly’ fining thousands of drivers £2.6million

Police rammed the cow

Officer who rammed cow with police squad car removed from frontline duties

England fans in Gelsenkirchen

Thousands of England fans descend on Gelsenkirchen ahead of Three Lions' first Euro 2024 match against Serbia

Queues at Birmingham airport

Travel chaos strikes major UK airport as passengers stuck in lengthy queues

Police rammed the cow

Owner of cow rammed by police gives update on its condition and says officers should be fired for 'disgusting' incident

Officers shot a man threatening football fans in Hamburg

Man shot by police after brandishing 'axe and molotov cocktail' close to Euro 2024 fan zone

Labour's Wes Streeting has called for a debate with Nigel Farage

Labour's Wes Streeting calls for debate with Nigel Farage to take on 'toxic rhetoric' in 'battle of ideas'

Prince William's children have sent him a Father's Day message

'We love you papa': George, Charlotte and Louis send Prince William Father's Day message in first social media post

Labour and the Conservatives would leave the NHS 'worse off than under austerity', the Nuffield Trust has warned

Labour and Tories would leave NHS 'worse off' than under austerity, health think tank warns