The toll of the blowlamp, the fag end and the spark
The fire earlier this month at Stormont Castle, near Belfast, was the latest in a series of blazes in historic buildings that have broken out during renovation work.
Windsor Castle, the National Trust's Uppark House, the Savoy Theatre in London, Edinburgh Playhouse, the Langham Hotel in London and Mar Lodge in Braemar are among two dozen important buildings which have suffered more than £100m-worth of fire damage in the past five years.
The problem is now considered so serious that in May more than 250 fire officers, insurers and other fire experts are to attend a conference on the Isle of Wight to discuss ways of preventing such fires.
At Stormont, an investigation headed by former chief fire inspector Sir Reginald Doyle is to focus on links between the blaze and recent renovation work. Sir Reginald is to begin his inquiry by studying forensic reports which suggest that the fire could have started in wiring behind the Speaker's chair. The repair bill is estimated at £15m.
Flammable materials such as solvents, and tools such as blowlamps used during restoration work, are often the cause of fires in historic buildings. But their very construction can also play a part. Many older buildings are made of wood or have been constructed in such a way that fires can spread rapidly.
Stewart Kidd of the Fire Protection Association, which advises on fire prevention, said: "When I see scaffolding against a listed building I shudder. The work being carried out, the fact that workmen are there who don't know the building, the likelihood that electricity and therefore fire alarms might be switched off, all mean that fire is a real risk."
Don Appleby, chief fire officer of the Isle of Wight and a member of the Chief and Assistant Chief Fire Officers Association (CACFOA), who is helping to host the conference, said: "In the last two to three years the rates of these incidents have leapt up. Once these buildings go up in flames you can never really replace them."
The risk of restoration was highlighted by the blaze at Uppark House, West Sussex, in 1989. The fire was traced to heat from an oxy-acetylene torch being used to weld lead, which ignited roof timbers during a £128,000 restoration project.
Contractors Haden Young,which admitted that the fire was caused by negligence by its employees, have since been found liable for legal costs and damage totalling around £25m.
Two years after the Uppark fire, £40m worth of damage was caused to Windsor Castle when fire broke out during a renovation programme. The fire wrecked the castle's St George's Hall and the Chester Tower.
Terry Glossop, chief fire officer of Gwent and chairman of the CACFOA fire safety committee, said: "We must get people to be more vigilant and alert to the dangers in renovation of old buildings."
Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando
First full-length look is finally here
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
"Oink! Oink! Hee hee hee!" First interview with the big-screen star
Biohacking group hopes technology will lead people to think about even more dystopian uses
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Sex abuse inquiry: 'Victims receive death threats' after MPs release names online
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Teenager brandishing fake gun taken down by police after demanding airtime on Netherlands' NOS TV station
The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£14000 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will b...
£41500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...
£10670 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...