Burned church lacked sprinklers

The 250 year-old Østre Porsgrunn church, which burned down on April 11 2011, should have had a sprinkler installed after a change to the law 20 years ago, according to the Norwegian Fire Protection Association.

Dagfinn Kalheim, chief executive of the association, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that such an “important culturally historic building” with “large economic value” should have been protected years ago, and that “the regulations say very clearly that owners must upgrade existing buildings to today’s standards.” In contrast, Jon Erik Bergendahl of the local fire department’s preventative division suggested a different interpretation of the rules, responding that “if it had been that simple then everything would have been fine.”

Bergendahl added that authorities “have not reflected their desire to avoid such buildings burning down in clear paragraphs that we can use.” Only 9 percent of the country’s churches have sprinkler systems installed.

Plans to install a set of sprinklers at the church were apparently underway before the fire, but the church lacked sufficient funds.

Found on the south coast of Norway in the town of Porsgrunn, the wooden Østre Porsgrunn church burned down on April 11 just after it celebrated its 250th anniversary. An arson investigation was launched, and two suspects are sought by the police. Other churches in the area were vandalized around the same date, but it is not known whether the incidents are linked.

Views and News staff