Glasgow School of Art fire suppression system ‘weeks away’

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A fire suppression system at Glasgow School of Art was weeks away from being installed before it was gutted by a second blaze, an expert has said.

Flames tore through the famous Mackintosh building last Friday night and spread to nearby properties including the O2 ABC.

Flames tore through the famous Mackintosh building last Friday night and spread to nearby properties including the O2 ABC. Picture: John Devlin.

Flames tore through the famous Mackintosh building last Friday night and spread to nearby properties including the O2 ABC. Picture: John Devlin.

It came amid a major restoration project inside the building following a devastating fire in 2014.

Keith MacGillivray, chief executive of the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, said a fire suppression system had arrived at the Glasgow city centre site the day before the fire but would have taken “a few weeks” to test and install.

He said: “The pumps had arrived the day before but they were in component parts, the reason being the area where the pumps would be fitted, along with water tanks, was quite constricted.

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“What they were going to do was put all the parts into the space and then reassemble the pumps there. It would have to be connected to water tanks and tested so it was a few weeks away from being completed.”

Mr MacGillivray said it was “about the normal time” for such a system to be installed in the building but added that a temporary system could have been in place in the meantime.

“When you take in context that the project had been going for four years it is a bit disappointing,” the fire safety expert said.

“Our main point is during reconstruction we recommend that you should put in a temporary system, particularly where you’ve got a building of such value.

“In any heritage we would suggest when refurbishment is going on, which is usually the most dangerous period for these buildings, that some sort of temporary system should be done. In fairness, they had put in a temporary smoke detection system as far as I’m aware but they hadn’t done that with a sprinkler or mist system.”

Glasgow City Council said the Mackintosh building has moved six inches since the fire and warned that its walls could fall “with no warning”.

At the height of the incident, more than 120 firefighters were involved in fighting the blaze.