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During recent years, there has been a growing interest in the use of automatic fire detection systems in buildings. In this article, the part such systems can play in reducing fire losses, and the main factors which affect their performance and reliability, are discussed. While it is intended to apply to heat-sensitive systems, some of the information is likely to apply to smoke-sensitive systems also. About one half of the total direct loss of approximately Â£25 million per annum is caused by a relatively small number of large fires. For example, in 1954, of a total direct loss of Â£26 million, some Â£12,800,000 loss was incurred in 239 large fires, each costing Â£10,000 or more. Of these large fires, which accounted for about 1/2 per cent of the total number of fires attended by Fire Brigades that year, 152 occurred in industrial premises, and caused a loss of Â£8 million. An analysis of fire reports shows that the majority of the fires were well-developed when discovered, particularly those occurring at night. It is therefore likely that earlier warning would have given every chance of a considerable saving in fire loss.