Fire teams missed opportunity to save Royal Clarence

It has been revealed that Fire Commanders failed to follow advice to limit the fire at The Royal Clarence Hotel.

A statement given to the official report suggests that commanding officers failed to take action to prevent the spread of the fire. The fire initially started in building eighteen, next-door to The Royal Clarence Hotel. The fire was first reported at around 6:30am. Fire crews arrived and controlled the blaze in building eighteen.

At around 08:30am it seemed like the worst of the drama was over, the inner structure of building eighteen had collapsed and there didn’t appear to be a fire within the Clarence building itself.

After re-entering the evacuated hotel, a fire officer found smoke bellowing out of bedrooms 401 and 402.

And that the wall separating the Clarence building and building eighteen was “red hot.” The fire officer in question said he didn’t feel he was being taken seriously “I returned to the command point and spoke with senior command officers. I had circled the area of concern on the plan and explained that the top floor was smoke logged and that I believed the fire was generally central of the two bedrooms.”

“I then said in my opinion we needed to start trying to get firefighters back into the building somehow?” The firefighter said he felt he was “not really being taken seriously, even though I was passing on relevant information.” Fire crews were only dampening the building with hoses from the outside until fire burst through the roof.

“I’m convinced there were several missed chances to stop the fire spreading. Clearly there was an opportunity to put some water jets on to the fire inside the hotel to hold it back.”

Timeline:
05:11 On Friday 28th October 2016, DSFRS received several 999 calls

05:21 The incident commander (IC) contacts fire control and declares a ‘major incident’.

05:31 Further assistance message from IC “Priority make up, make pumps 15, Aerials 2”

05:32 Message informs Fire Control that the hotel is involved in fire; which was confirmed as within the eaves, which can be seen in fig.9 where the fire is impinging on the pitched roofs of the RCH, above room 402.

05:50 The crews were informed that there were ‘persons reported’ missing within the hotel. This led to more offensive tactics with crews being committed into the hotel to search for and
rescue the missing persons. Fortunately, all guests had already made their way out of the hotel and presented themselves to the police.

10:18 Crews witness the sudden significant development of the fire which breaks through the roof of the RCH (Fig 22).

Experienced fire officers, who also instruct on fire development courses, stated that they had not seen a significant escalating fire develop like it in their 28 years in the Fire & Rescue Service.

Ross Bryant

Author: Ross Bryant

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