Air Quality Monitors in Brighton catch fire data (no pun intended)
During the afternoon of Saturday 15th July, a fire was reported at the Albion Hotel, on Brighton’s seafront. This was no small incident: three days later, around Tuesday lunchtime, there were still pockets of fire smouldering and, sadly, part of the building was left as little more than a shell.
With concern for the health and safety of the surrounding areas of the city, residents and businesses were advised to keep windows closed to keep indoor levels of dangerous particulates as low as possible. Luckily there have been no reported injuries as a result of this awful fire.
A little over 1.5km away, two Praxis monitors installed at Preston Circus also picked up data on the course of the fire, via the smoke (particulate matter) released by the burning.
Timeline of events and monitoring data
- 4pm, 15th July: despite being 1.57km away, two Praxis monitors show an increase in levels of PM1 and PM2.5 from 4pm onwards.
- 5pm 15th July: The blaze was reported around 5pm and thick smoke could already be seen over Brighton by 6pm.
- 8pm, 15th July: Around 8pm, the fire was worsening and thick smoke created very poor visibility at the Old Steine, which is close to the hotel. People are advised to stay away because of the risks of smoke inhalation and building collapse.
See video of the fire from around 8pm here.
- Around 11pm, 15th July (6 hours in) firefighters were still battling the fire and nearby residents had been evacuated.
- 3am, 16th July: Levels of PM10 are elevated, as measured by the monitors at Preston Circus, suggesting that either (i) a secondary fire is burning (as subsequently reported) or (ii) as less water is being used to calm the fire, this may have meant more smoke was billowing out of the building, releasing more of the larger PM10 particles into the air.
How can we use the air quality monitoring data?
The air quality data shows elevated levels of PM1 and PM2.5 from around 4pm on Sat 15th until 2am on Sunday. This kind of information is useful to understand the impact of this fire on the wider surrounding area and also for modelling how air pollution spreads from a large fire.
The Preston Circus monitors are at least 1.5km north of the fire site, plus the wind direction for most of Saturday 15th was WSW, which puts them at the very edge of the plume. This data demonstrates that precision instruments can (and do!) pick up interesting readings even in a situation they weren’t specifically set up to monitor.
Having the right context for your data also matters. You’ll notice the plot above clearly shows both reported data (light grey), which is the output from the sensors, and interpreted (or corrected) data value (dark grey).
We recommend reporting on the interpreted data values, as these are generated using our field-tested data correction algorithm to give you accurate data. Nonetheless, precise data is the foundation of reliable decision-making and our Praxis monitors record both reported and corrected values so that users can apply an alternative data correction algorithm if they wish.
You can read more about what happened next, once the fire had been extinguished, in this report from the BBC.
If you’d like to find out more about precision air quality monitors, visit our website or contact our Sales Director, David Johnson.