The National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) has released its review on the Cathedral Yard fire that took place on 28th October 2016, over three years ago.
Due to the swift actions of staff at the hotel, no one was killed or injured. Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service stated firmly that it was ‘very sad to see the loss of the Royal Clarence Hotel’.
From the outset of the rescue, the firefighters faced unsafe conditions when a wall collapsed and a firefighter was close to falling into the fire in the gallery next door. It was a very difficult and unpredictable blaze that could have spread down the whole length of the high street.
Because of the ‘significant interest’ in the incident, the Fire and Rescue Service interviewed many of the staff who were present, with the intent of producing a report on this ‘public facing event’. This was the first time they had done so.
They asked the NFCC to independently review their report following an allegation made by the Sector Commander who was responsible for the Royal Clarence area on the night of the fire. He claimed that parts of his account of the incident were purposefully kept out of the report.
The allegation also implied that the fire which spread into the Royal Clarence Hotel was not previously identified or covered in other independent reports.
Following a review of the information collected and by interviewing 21 witnesses including some of those who were involved, they also requested to speak with the Sector Commander for the Royal Clarence area, who declined to be interviewed.
The NFCC review found that there was no cover up in the findings and that the spreading of the fire most likely took place through hidden voids at the rear of the building. Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service Alex Hanson explained: “We are a learning organisation and we wanted to look at how we could further learn and improve. There are a number of valuable points raised in the NFCC review, which we will take on board.”
He added: “The review has also provided the reassurance of the integrity of our reporting process. Nothing in the review detracts away from the efforts of our firefighters who dealt with the fire. We care deeply about the safety of our firefighters and will not put them at unnecessary risk,
particularly when there are no lives to be saved.”