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January 23, 2023


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RIAS calls for sprinklers to be mandatory in all public buildings after fatal hotel fire

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has urged for sprinklers to be made mandatory in all public buildings, after an inquiry into the death of two men in a fire in a Scottish hotel.

The fatal accident inquiry into the fire recommended that the Scottish government consider making the installation of active fire suppression systems such as sprinklers compulsory in historic buildings converted into hotels. It was also suggested the guidance for existing buildings should be reviewed to ensure it reflected the risks of rapid spread of fire in traditional forms of construction.

The RIAS believes the recommendation should be ‘taken further’ and applied to all buildings used by the general public.

Richard Dyson, 38, and Simon Midgley, 32, died when a blaze broke out at the Cameron House Hotel near Loch Lomond after the hotel’s night porter put hot ashes in a plastic bag containing newspapers and kindling in a cupboard, in December 2017.

Hotel staff reportedly did not realise Midgley and Dyson were missing for nearly an hour and a half after the fire broke out, with staff struggling to find a guest list to hold a roll call.


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There had been no sprinklers in the building, which dates to the 1600s, but was converted to a hotel in 1985. Giving evidence at the inquiry, the Scottish fire and rescue service said it would have been ‘reasonable’ for the hotel to have sprinklers. The hotel’s operators said the building’s age made this impractical, although they have since installed them.

Responding to the inquiry, the RIAS called the men’s deaths ‘entirely preventable’. The organisation said it “believes sprinklers save lives, and that the time has come for the Scottish government to legislate for the retrospective installation of sprinkler systems in all buildings used by the general public.”

It added that, though historic buildings like Cameron House Hotel, could have ‘complexities and technicalities’ that would need to be overcome, these would be “outweighed by [the] potential safety benefits”.

The RIAS also said: “Our position is clear: there should be no legislative, financial or technical obstacles to ensuring public safety.’ The corporation offered its help to the Scottish government in overcoming any technical issues.

“Dyson and Midgley died from smoke and fire gas inhalation in the blaze, which spread rapidly through the five storey hotel in just 15 minutes with the second and third floor escape corridors unusable due to smoke by around 13 minutes, probably via hidden voids. The remaining 200 guests escaped to safety, although three were hospitalised.

“Evidence given by architect and past chair of the Scottish Government’s Fire Safety Review Panel Peter Drummond to the inquiry found that a sprinkler system would ‘significantly slow the spread of flame and would extend the margin of safety for available escape time.”

The Crown argued that it was “a real or likely possibility that, had the sprinklers been installed and worked to inhibit the extent and spread of the fire and smoke, [Dyson and Midgley] would, like other guests, have been able safely to escape the building.”

Leading the inquiry, sheriff Thomas McCartney called for the Scottish government to “consider introducing for future conversions of historic buildings to be used as hotel accommodation a requirement to have active fire suppression systems installed.”

McCartney also recommended that the Scottish government explore the fire risks posed by historic buildings because of their age, varying quality of workmanship and the fact they may not meet current building standards. Other recommendations included having a proper system for disposing of hot ash from fires, and ‘robust arrangements’ to make sure all guests are accounted for in an evacuation.

The Scottish government said it was considering the report and would respond ‘in due course’.

Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond), which operates the hotel, has already been fined £500,000 after admitting two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005. The night porter was given a community payback order for breaking health and safety laws.

The hotel has since reopened with improved fire safety systems, including a sprinkler system, alongside intensive staff training, according to reports.


This story was first published by Architects Journal. 

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