NONE of the four factories involved in devastating fires which caused £15million worth of damage had sprinklers fitted, it was revealed today.

Now fire chiefs have urged company bosses to reconsider their fire prevention plans as a survey showed only one in every hundred mills and warehouses in Lancashire have water sprinklers.

The recent multi-million pound blazes at Rectella, Burnley, Pine Direct, Burnley, Duralay, Haslingden and Stamford Converters in Darwen, would have had "very limited" damage if the devices were fitted, the fire service said today.

Lancashire's chief fire officer Peter Holland, who launched a national campaign for a change in the law to make sprinklers compulsory, accused firms of taking a "ridiculous risk" by not fitting sprinklers.

He said: "I set up the fire sprinkler network, a group of influential people to thrash out how to increase the use of sprinkler systems.

"We have now got the law changed so new buildings of 2,000 sq metres or more have to have a sprinkler system installed.

"I would urge insurance companies to encourage owners to have sprinkler systems fitted. It can be expensive when you consider there is an initial cost but if there is a fire the damage is limited and insurance premiums are lower.

"Yes there is water damage but the business can recover from water damage.

"If a book is damaged by water it can be dried out, if it is burnt it is gone forever."

He said B & Q had now fitted sprinkler systems into all its premises following five serious fires.

He said he would be pushing for the law to be changed and for it to be legal requirement to fit sprinkler systems in all factories and mills.

Firefighters attended more than 100 blazes in industrial premises in Lancashire in the last year.

None had sprinklers.

Divisional Commander Mick Frankland said: "There are two main reasons given by mill owners for not having sprinklers fitted.

"One is the cost element particularly if they are not fitted when the building is under construction.

"The other thing is the perception that damage to one head triggers off the whole system and damages all the stock."

Mr Frankland said in three of the major fires, workers were on site and tried to tackle the fires.

Despite their efforts the fires spread quickly causing major damage.

Mr Frankland said: "It would seem better that a small amount of stock was damaged by water if a head is broken rather than for the whole factory to be burnt down."

Mr Holland said sprinklers rarely went off accidentally, in fact in only one in 16 million operations.

He found it extraordinary that sprinklers were not in wider use and that insurers were taking on a ridiculous risk when there was such an obviously threat of rapid fire spread.

Mr Holland believes that sprinklers systems should also be in high risk housing where they could reduce fire deaths. He said 600 people a year died in their homes each year and the success of sprinklers would be "phenomenal."

The £3million blaze which gutted Pine Direct could have been avoided had company bosses heeded fire service advice to fit sprinklers, the fire service earlier said.

Mr Frankland said the company had been strongly urged to fit water sprinklers at its new 250,000 sq ft Accrington Road manufacturing, storage and distribution centre following a fire inspection in 1999.

The company later said it would review the situation.