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Two Iron Mountain facilities hit by fire

The facilities, in London and Ottawa, held public and private archives

By Sharon Fisher
July 25, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Two Iron Mountain Inc. data storage facilities were hit by fires this month, destroying one facility and damaging the other, but the causes of the blazes have yet to be determined.

On July 12, a fire in the Iron Mountain storage facility in Prologis Park, Bromley-by-Bow, in London, burned the building to the ground, destroying all of the records in the 126,000-square-foot structure, according to Melissa Mahoney, director of corporate communications for the Boston-based company.

An investigation is under way to determine not only the cause of the blaze, but also why fire suppression systems didn't work, she said.

The London fire occurred just one day after a blaze in the east end of Ottawa caused damage to an Iron Mountain facility there, Mahoney said. While the investigation into that fire has also not been completed, it is believed to have been caused by some roofing contractors performing repairs.

The fire suppression systems in the Ottawa facility worked as designed, she said. About 3% of the data files were damaged, mostly by water, and less than half a percent have been damaged beyond remediation in the 65,000-square-foot building, Mahoney said.

The London facility, which had fire-detection and sprinkler systems, stored primarily archival and inactive business records for London organizations, according to the company. Iron Mountain said that it expects that all of the records in the London warehouse will be lost. Several prominent law firms stored files there, according to news accounts.

While the company has not yet received any indication that the fire was suspicious in origin, it is beefing up security at its other facilities -- adding personnel and beefing up background checks, until suspicious activity has been ruled out, Mahoney said.

One Iron Mountain user, who had had trouble retrieving data from a facility in Louisiana during last year's Hurricane Katrina, said such incidents underscore the need for diversification and data redundancy.

Neal Hennegan, director of technology at Gilsbar Inc., in Covington, La., now keeps duplicates of data at its own facilities as well as at Iron Mountain. "The days of physical remote storage are clearly numbered," he said. "If we were a smaller shop, we'd be doing all our backups over the wire now."

The BBC reported that the London Iron Mountain building was six stories high and that 20- and 30-foot-high flames required more than 100 firefighters to control. According to one newspaper account, witnesses heard explosions.

In the other fire, the city of Ottawa itself was storing records in the facility, which also contained archival files belonging to private organizations, according to newspaper accounts. Seventy-five firefighters were called in to fight that fire, according to news reports.

Users in the U.K. whose data was destroyed by the fire received phone calls and visits, said Ken Rubin, senior vice president of marketing for Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain customers in the U.K. not affected by the fire received letters from the company, he said. Iron Mountain also called users affected by the fire in the Ottawa facility.

"We are not publicizing this to customers around the world who were unaffected," he said. "Over time, as we get some distance and more information is available, we'll begin broadening the communications."

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