A Scottish fire and rescue service report into the fire at Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building in May has concluded that it was started when flammable gases from an expanding foam canister were ignited.
The category-A listed building suffered extensive damage when the fire ripped through students’ studios and its famous, wood-panelled library. Students at the college were in the middle of preparing their degree shows when the fire broke out and many had work destroyed in the fire.
The report states that the flammable gases from the canister were ignited by a projector. Due to both horizontal and vertical air ducts in the building, the fire took hold immediately and quickly spread from the basement and throughout the west wing of the building.
The expanding foam was being used during the installation of a student’s work consisting of foam panels fastened to three walls, with a fourth wall left blank for images to be projected on. When the fire started, gaps between the panels were being filled by the foam.
It was also revealed in the report that the fitting of a new fire suppression system, which would have sprayed water from a series of sprinklers in the event of a fire, had been delayed by two weeks due to the discovery of asbestos in the building. It was in the latter part of its installation.
Professor Tom Innes, director of Glasgow School of Art, said: “The fire was an accident and, like any accident, it’s caused by many different factors coming together and conspiring against us on the day.
“There are a huge number of lessons that can be learned and we’ve been working very hard over the last six months on our health and safety procedures, training and so on.
“We’ve been doing many different things over the summer to learn from the experience and now we go into the process of dealing with the restoration of the building. The report is very detailed about how the fire spread round the building and that gives us a lot of new knowledge that we need to take on board.”
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