Glasgow Art School Fire: What we know so far

Much of Scotland woke up on Saturday morning to the news that, yet again, the cultural and architectural icon that is the Glasgow School of Art building had been devastated by fire.
Firefighters battling the blaze. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA WireFirefighters battling the blaze. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Firefighters battling the blaze. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The O2 ABC gig venue, which has stood in one form or another for nearly 150 years, is also believed to have suffered severe damage.

Footage from the scene shows both buildings ablaze, and the Mackintosh building at the School of Art has been described in some quarters as ‘a shell’. Here is what we know so far about the fire that has shocked the nation.

How and when did it start?

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We don’t yet know how the fire started, but it was confirmed to be ablaze just before midnight on the early morning of Saturday June 16th, with social media footage showing just how high the flames had reached.

Residents even in other parts of the city reported seeing the flames and smoke.

Firefighters immediately rushed to the scene and battled the fire for nearly 24 hours.

Haven’t we been here before?

If you had a sense of deja vu when news of the fire broke, then you were not the only one.

The Mackintosh building was actually ravaged by fire a little over four years ago, in May of 2014 when a blaze was discovered shortly before students presented their degree shows.

An investigation revealed later that year that the fire was caused by flammable expanding foam which was being used by an unnamed student.

There was also a huge fire in the same street just two months ago, when a fire at the Victoria’s nightclub building caused demolition work to have bee carried out.

Had the building recovered from the 2014 fire?

Not entirely, but it was pretty close.

In a cruel twist of fate, it seems that the fitting of sprinklers was one of the final jobs that needed to be carried out on the renovated structure, which was 90% preserved.

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A full scale prototype of the extensively damaged library was revealed late last year, with Keir Construction, awarded the restoration contract, stressing how much they had strived to preserve the original features of the building.

Sprinklers weren’t fitted?

It appears not. It is not uncommon for a sprinkler system to be fitted quite late.

A spokesperson for the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association told the Guardian: “However, it should be realised that sprinklers can be fitted in buildings throughout construction on a temporary basis, as there is a considerable risk from fire during this period.”

Questions will likely still be asked, however, about why fire safety wasn’t the number one priority on a building that was in the process of being restored after a damaging fire.

How much will repairs cost?

That is another unknown at this stage, however estimates as high as £100m have been quoted.

What have politicians said?

Most of the politicians commenting on the awful blaze have steered clear of the potential causes and lessons to be learned, with so many questions yet to be answered.

Instead, they have been chiefly reflecting the shock, disbelief, and sadness that people in Scotland and across the world are feeling at the potential loss of such an iconic building.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, said that she was ‘devastated’ by the fire, while UK Prime Minister Theresa May said they would support the Scottish Government in relief and restoration efforts.