The Mackintosh Fire report finally published – 25 January 2022
The report finds that it is likely the fire started on the east side on or above level 4 of the Mackintosh building. It adds that an unlimited air supply fed through the duct system which served to intensify the fire, promoting uncontrolled fire growth and rapid development. Fifty per cent of the building was well alight within 38 minutes of the arrival of firefighters.
Despite an unprecedented and extended investigative process, sufficient evidence to support any credible origin and cause hypothesis has not been recovered from the scene or evidenced in witness testimonies or eyewitness accounts.
Therefore, the origin and cause of the fire incident at the Mackintosh Building on the 15 June 2018 has been recorded as “undetermined”.
It has been a long wait for this report, and it is disappointing that after three and a half years, we are still no nearer finding the cause of this devastating fire to the Mackintosh Building. Here are some key points from the report:
- Unfortunately, almost everything within the building was severely damaged or consumed in the fire and that included any potential items of evidence that could have provided those answers.
- They believe the fire began on the east side of the building on or above level four.
- The building had been subject to extensive construction work for almost two years. Electrical, plumbing, heating and data services were in the process of being installed throughout the building. Large quantities of combustible materials had been either fitted or were stored throughout the building waiting to be installed.
- Despite doors to rooms and cross corridor doors being in position, the doors that were in place, whether original or temporary, would be unlikely to be capable of demonstrating fire resistance in the same way as a modern “rated” British Standard (BS476) fire door set would.
- Some of the original doors remained in their original locations, with some temporary doors fitted where original doors had been removed for refurbishment.
- Passive fire safety measures were compromised across the entire building due to the nature and extent of the refurbishment work being carried out. This level of vulnerability during construction is not uncommon, however it does significantly increase the risk of fire spread where the fabric of a building has been compromised.
- Active fire safety measures should have been subject to a thorough programme of scheduled maintenance and testing.
- It was confirmed by the main contractor that onsite records for testing and maintenance of the FWS were only retained on site and were consumed in the fire. The Mackintosh Building has an additional inherent design feature that further compromised the passive fire safety measures and contributed further to the increased risk – ventilation ducts.
- The original Mackintosh designed ventilation system featured ducts throughout the entire building. The network of ventilation ducts varied in construction type, but have been observed as being brick, metal or timber lined. The legacy ventilation system was referenced in the 2014 fire report as a major contributor to rapid spread of fire.
- The report also found that ‘uncontrolled fire growth and rapid development’ of the fire – half of the building was ‘well alight’ within 38 minutes of the arrival of firefighters – had been fuelled by the unlimited air supply drawn through ‘exposed and unprotected’ ventiliation ducts.
- As a result of the refurbishment work undertaken prior to the 2018 fire, the original ventilation system played an even greater role in supporting smoke, heat and fire spread. Many of the ventilation ducts were exposed and unprotected to allow services to be channelled throughout the building (electricity/data/heating/ plumbing).
- The ducts had no effective passive fire stopping measures or cavity barriers although, fire dampers had been fitted to some areas but were not operational. The remainder of the ducts were scheduled to be fitted with fire cavity barriers/fire stopping measures upon completion of the installation of services.
- At the time of the fire, these active fire safety measures were not commissioned or fitted, providing a route for fire and fire gases to rapidly spread both horizontally and vertically. The well-ventilated ducts most likely served to provide a chimney effect, entraining an endless supply of fresh air to the fire as it developed and spread across the entire building.
- Although the fire service could not pinpoint a possible origin, the investigation team did come up with a number of possible hypotheses which could not be discounted.
- Arson, potentially by ‘a lone figure in the car park’ caught on CCTV cameras three hours after the discovery of the fire
- Fault or failure of electrical appliances or distribution systems, including supply cables, transformers, 110volt trailing leads and festoon lighting as a potential ignition source
- Non-electrical accidental ignition, such as by a smoker of a chemical reaction inducing spontaneous combustion linked to a sander.
Due to the extensive damage throughout the entire site, post fire indicators were not available to support the investigation by indication of a possible origin or cause area. Directional indicators did not exist on the remaining structure as surface finishes had either spalled or been consumed in the fire, window lintel blackening, although visible, was present on multiple apertures as the fire progressed through the building. To competently determine the origin and cause of this fire, the hypotheses offered above have been tested against the evidence available to the FIO. Despite a sustained, comprehensive investigation and excavation process, carried out over a three-year period, SFRS where unable to identify any evidence that would competently test and support the hypotheses. Having, considered the available evidence and the possible origin and cause hypotheses, in the absence of any further information, I conclude that the cause of the fire to be recorded as Undetermined. Should further information be presented, this will be considered, and the conclusion of this report may be subject to a comprehensive review. Peter Allardice – SFRS
The report recommends that lessons learned from the Mackintosh Building fire in 2018 should be carefully considered by key stakeholders involved in future construction projects.
The full report is available here GSA Fire Report 25jan22
Further works on Mackintosh Building Commencing Monday 24 February 2020
This is to advise that on Monday 24th February work will begin to facilitate further access to the Mackintosh Building that has been requested by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) as part of their ongoing investigations.
Works will commence on February 24th with a crane arriving on site on or near that date. The early focus of the works will be on the west of the Building on Scott Street with conveyors again removing debris and rubble from the site to allow access to the SFRS.
Given the extent of the works required a total of 24 weeks of activity is forecast. The work is planned to take place on weekdays from 8am to 4.30 pm and members of the GSA Mackintosh team and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be on site throughout the work. It may occasionally be necessary to work at short notice on Saturdays but there is no indication of this at present.
As ever we will attempt to keep all site traffic, noise and disturbances to an absolute minimum under the contractor Reigart Contracts Scotland Limited. A site noticeboard with regular updates on activity on the site is planned for Dalhousie Street over the coming weeks.
Over this period Renfrew Street will remain closed to through traffic and remain part of the contractor’s site with 24 hour manned security at all times. There will be no changes to the existing extent of the Building site during the works, but there will be more movement of vehicles entering and exiting the site.
Art school fire report delayed again
The report identifying the cause of the second fire at Glasgow School of Art is not expected to be published until next year – more than 18 months after the blaze.
The Chair of the GSA Board, Prof. Nora Kearney has told staff in an email the report may not be published until “the end of this year or the beginning of 2020”.
The blaze that gutted the iconic Charles Rennie Mackintosh building and devastated the 02 ABC concert venue, happened in June 2018.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) said in June, on the anniversary of the second fire, its investigation was in the “final phases”.
But Prof. Kearney said it would take another two months to remove rubble and debris from the building to help firefighters establish the origin and cause of the fire.
Professor Alan Dunlop, an architect and academic who trained at the art school, said: “It’s astonishing it is taking so long to produce the fire report.
“We are still no wiser as to why the building caught fire for a second time in four years.
“It seems strange it could take a year and a half to find the cause of the fire.
“It is disappointing because nothing can move forward until then.”
Politicians, who have called for a public inquiry into the fire, also criticised the delay.
Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White said: “It is completely unacceptable that we have had to wait this long for this report and that it might be 2020 before the investigation is finished.
In her email, Prof. Kearney said work was continuing on the stabilisation of the Mackintosh building and “salvaging where possible”.
She said the next stage of the investigation by Scottish Fire and Rescue required access to the basement of the Mackintosh building. This would involve removing rubble and debris and take two months to complete.
She said: “The investigation and publication of the SFRS report rests with SFRS, although we would hope the report might be published towards the end of this year or the beginning of 2020.”
SFRS director of prevention and protection, assistant chief officer Ross Haggart, described the investigation as “ongoing” but said the art school had now hired a Coatbridge-based demolition firm to clear the basement.
He said: “On-site excavations and examinations will now recommence.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Fire investigators will maintain a presence throughout the work to remove this material.
“The fire investigation remains focused on likely origin and cause – but against the backdrop of an unprecedented large-scale fire scene within a complex and challenging site.
“There is no estimated timescale for the investigation being concluded, and we would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we continue our efforts.”
Glasgow School of Art said: “The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have been clear that this is a complex investigation.
“We are supporting them to make sure they are able to access all the areas of the building they wish to examine as they continue their detailed forensic work.”
The Scottish Parliament – Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee published its report on the fire that destroyed the Mackintosh Building at the Glasgow School of Art.
Since September the Committee has taken evidence from a number of key organisations and experts:
Thursday 20 September 2018
Eileen Reid, Former Head of Widening Participation at Glasgow School of Art; Malcolm Fraser, Architect; Roger Billcliffe, Director, Roger Billcliffe Gallery and Charles Rennie Mackintosh scholar; Stuart Robertson, Director, Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society.
Thursday 25 October 2018
Brian McQuade, Managing Director, Kier Scotland; David Page, Director, and David Paton, Head of Design Review, Page\Park Architects.
Thursday 15 November 2018
Muriel Gray, Chair of the Board of Governors, Prof. Irene McAra-McWilliam OBE, Deputy Director (Innovation), and Liz Davidson OBE, Senior Project Manager, Mackintosh Building Restoration, Glasgow School of Art.
Thursday 17 January 2019
Dawson Stelfox, Conservation Architect and Consultant, Consarc Design Group Ltd; Stephen Mackenzie, Independent fire, security & resilience advisor; Barbara Cummins, Director of Heritage, Dara Parsons, Deputy Head of Casework, and Thomas Knowles, Head of Grants, Historic Environment Scotland.
The Committee report said that they were not convinced that the GSA gave sufficient priority to the safeguarding of the Mackintosh building. Despite the reassurances provided by the GSA, the Committee recommends the GSA review how it disseminates information pertaining to the Mackintosh building to provide a clearer picture of its activities. In particular, the GSA Board should be more transparent regarding the processes which would be put in place regarding any future re-build of the Mackintosh building.
The Committee recommends that after the conclusion of the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service report, the Scottish Government should establish a public inquiry with judicial powers into the 2014 and 2018 fires at the Glasgow School of Art. The inquiry should also examine the risks posed by fire in historic buildings nationally and the ability of custodians to manage these properties, drawing on the lessons learned from the GSA.
You can view the full report here: http://parliament.scot/GSAfire
This beautiful and poignant illustration is the work of Fiona Wilson, a Glasgow based artist who operates out of Wasps Artist Studios in the Trongate area of Glasgow.
Fiona, who lives near to the scene of the fire in the Garnethill area, studied Visual Communication at The School of Art from 1987 until 1991, before becoming a painter.
She said: “I went for a walk this morning and I was thinking about it – I did my graduation thesis on Mackintosh’s style so it’s kind of a big part of my past work of what I did when I studied at the School of Art. “So I guess the rose came to mind and the fact that within tattoo art there’s a lot of eyes and that sort of iconography that’s used – so it’s quite a vintage icon. The two just came together in my mind and I thought ‘I’m just going to sit down and do it’ and put it out rather than just thinking about it and not do anything”.
We will keep you updated on any news we here from those onsite.
The Mackintosh legacy is small, vulnerable and irreplaceable, and the fire has prompted an outpouring of concern and support from around the world.