Hotel fires spark further debate

A recent Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) has found that a Scottish hotel had a number of defects regarding fire safety. Whilst sadly two men died in the fire, the inquiry found that the installation of sprinklers would have resulted in their deaths being avoided. One has to question why it has taken such a tragedy to highlight the need for sprinklers in hotels such as this. With hotels posing different risks and challenges, many people are surprised sprinklers are not the norm in such buildings.

The fire at Cameron House Hotel near Loch Lomond in 2017 resulted in the death of two people while three others were treated at hospital. In his report, 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”. The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) has since stated “the recommendation should be taken further and applied to all buildings used by the general public”. The hotel has since reopened with improved fire safety systems including a sprinkler system.

This vulnerability of hotels to fire has been demonstrated not just at Cameron House Hotel but also at a wide range of hospitality venues including heritage conversions and modern hotels. For instance in July 2020, fire broke out in the morning’s early hours at the 100-bed Moorfield Hotel in Brae on the Shetland Islands. While staff and guests were evacuated safely, the Fire and Rescue crews from Shetland, who were assisted by industrial fire teams from the nearby Sollum Voe Oil Terminal, were unable to save the building which was quickly engulfed by flames. This was a modern, seven-year-old hotel building that was completely lost in the fire event. The fire is reported to have started around a linen cupboard and spread into other areas of the building.

Another fire that made headlines occurred at the Premier Inn in Bristol in 2019. Despite the efforts of 60 firefighters who fought the blaze, the unsprinklered hotel was largely destroyed. The event disrupted local roads, businesses and stretched resources. The rebuilt hotel was completed in 2021 and has a BREEAM ‘very good’ rating by achieving more than a 40 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions over and above the standards set in prior Building Regulations. There is no mention of the environmental cost or how the CO2 emissions balance the impact of the previous devastating fire event. Sadly, automatic sprinklers were not installed in the rebuilt hotel to aid with resilience to fire.

In the same year, fire completely destroyed a Holiday Inn on Wolverhampton Road West in Willenhall near Walsall and the Claremont Hotel in Eastbourne. West Midlands Fire Service confirmed the Holiday Inn did not have any sprinklers fitted, despite calls for their installation. Prior to the blaze the fire service had recommended the hotel fit sprinklers in the building, but they were never installed. The hotel was subsequently demolished and has yet to be rebuilt. Sadly it was the same outcome for the Grade II listed Victorian Claremont Hotel in Eastbourne which was demolished due to safety fears. It is also awaiting a rebuild nearly four years after the fire.

Building standards/regulations guidance are silent on the provision of sprinklers in these hotels irrespective of the height of the buildings. If they had, sprinkler systems would most likely have contained these fires as they would have activated automatically. Evidence shows that while sprinklers are primarily intended to contain or control fires, they can also be instrumental in saving people’s lives.

For more information about the Business Sprinkler Alliance visit

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