Lessons that should be learnt from Cameron House fire inquiry

In December 2017 there was a major fire at the Cameron House Hotel next to Loch Lomond. The fire started in a ground floor cupboard and spread upwards through two floors.  Two guests were killed in the fire.

A fatal accident inquiry concluded last year and made multiple recommendations. One area highlighted for action at the inquiry is to improve understanding of the role of voids in buildings in the spread of fire.

The term ‘void’ refers to the hidden spaces in a building which can allow fire to spread unseen. This presents a lot of issues that can have serious implications, especially if the void doesn’t have the detection and protection required.

In the Cameron House Hotel fire, the fire was caused by a bag of fire ash being placed in a cupboard in the reception area.

The cupboard also contained paper and kindling, and the smouldering fire embers caused these to catch fire.

It is likely that the smoke spread through voids, reaching higher levels in the hotel, long before any smoke detector was triggered.

One of the biggest risks in older buildings is the uncontrolled spread of fire throughout the building. Hidden voids provide a great route around the building, which fire is very adept at exploiting.

A hidden fire will gain quite a hold before being detected and the delay in detection can be deadly.

In the UK, buildings are designed with fire-resisting structural elements to keep fire in its place of origin for long enough so that occupants can escape.

In particular, the aim is to slow the spread of fire: from floor to floor; from one building to another, horizontally; and between compartments within a building.

If fire safety within a building relies on being contained in an area, it is easy to see how hidden voids and cavities can be a problem.

A common example relating to voids is where a gap is left around pipes and cables as they pass from one area of a building to another.  These gaps need to be filled with suitable fire-resistant products.

It is important fire safety procedures are in place to ensure everybody is kept safe. For more information and guidance, contact our team of experts today.