'Final phases' of Glasgow art school fire investigation

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMore than 120 firefighters were involved in the operation to contain and extinguish the blaze at the Mack

Investigators are entering the final phases of their probe into the fire which devastated Glasgow School of Art.

The world-renowned Mackintosh building was extensively damaged when a blaze broke out on 15 June last year.

A year on, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said several hundred tonnes of debris still had to be removed from the remains of the building.

Neighbours of the art school told BBC Scotland they were eager to find out the results of the investigation.

The art school says it is committed to rebuilding the Mack as Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed it "for the benefit of students, for Glasgow and for the wider world".

The blaze took hold as the building was nearing the end of a £35m restoration following a previous fire in May 2014.

Investigators have examined two sectors of the building following the removal of 400 tonnes of charred wreckage, according to the Scottish fire service.

They have also scoured hundreds of hours of CCTV footage and taken witness statements.

But before the final stages of the investigation can take place, more debris needs to be taken away from the "complex site".

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image captionSurrounding buildings including the O2 were also gutted in the fire

SFRS Assistant Chief Officer Ross Haggart said the fire service was working alongside on-site contractors to have the "significant volume" of remaining fire debris removed.

He added: "The fire investigation remains focused on likely origin and cause - but against the backdrop of an unprecedented large scale fire scene within a complex and challenging site.

"Our fire investigation team is working hard based on what remains within the building once the debris is removed, alongside all other evidence available to them."

More than 120 firefighters worked to contain and extinguish the blaze, which spread to the O2 ABC venue and other properties.

The fire service investigation began on the night the fire took hold and since then investigators have reviewed 70 pieces of information, such as photos and video from the public.

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The probe is being led by fire service group manager David Dourley, who said the final phases of the investigation would be "challenging" due to the volume of debris.

"It is also a challenging site and we will require, at times, to work within confined spaces," he said.

"But safety is paramount and each time we move to begin an excavation or go onto the site we will consult with Glasgow School of Art and also the on-site contractor."

He added: "We would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as we continue our efforts."

image copyrightPA
image captionThe blaze could be seen across the city

Earlier this year, the school of art was criticised by Holyrood's culture committee, which found bosses did not give sufficient priority to safeguarding the building.

It has also faced criticism from some local residents and businesses who were unable to return to their properties for several months.

Angela Simpson told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland that she did not fully return to her home in Dalhousie Street for three months.

She said she had heard "nothing" from the art school.

"We are across the road from the art school," she said. "We are all neighbours. It doesn't take two minutes to just rattle up a little letter and pop it through everybody's doors."

Former GSA chairwoman Muriel Gray told MSPs she regretted the school's "poor communications" following the fire.

image copyrightJeff J Mitchell
image captionAngela Simpson took part in protests following the fire at the Mack

Photographer Christopher Bone, who works from home, said his business was "severely damaged" in the wake of the fire.

"I had to cancel a lot of work," he told BBC Scotland. "There's a strange Catch 22 situation with insurance that because my building was not damaged - no smoke damage - my insurance didn't kick in."

Now Mr Bone and Ms Simpson hope the fire investigators' report will answer their questions about the fire.

Ms Simpson said: "I want to know who is responsible for the fire because it is somebody's fault. There is somebody, or a variety of bodies, that were to blame but you need to see the facts first before you start shouting 'it was your fault'.

A spokesman for the Glasgow School of Art said: "The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service investigation into the fire of the 15 June 2018 when Keir Construction Scotland Ltd were in full day-to-day control of the site is still ongoing.

"As the SFRS have said, this is an incredibly complex investigation and we are working closely with them to ensure they get all necessary access to the Mackintosh building.

"We remain committed to bringing back the Mack as Mackintosh designed it for the benefit of our students, for Glasgow and for the wider world."

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