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Glasgow School of Art sues fire alarm firm after catastrophic blaze

© PABattling the Mack fire in 2018
Battling the Mack fire in 2018

Glasgow School of Art is suing the company that installed the fire alarm at the world-renowned Mackintosh building before it was destroyed in a second devastating blaze.

The art school has also launched legal action against the architects of the £35 million restoration of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh ­masterpiece following the first fire.

An art school insider said: “It is possible there will be further actions. It is unlikely that these will be the only ones.”

Meanwhile, two years on, ­investigators are still sifting through debris to discover the cause of the fire. It is estimated the rebuilding of the Mackintosh building will cost at least £100m.

Now the art school has raised an action at the Court of Session against Glasgow firm Arrest Fire & Security. According to the company’s website, it installed intruder alarms, fire systems and CCTV at the art school, including the Mackintosh building.

A spokesman for Arrest Fire & Security Ltd said: “We will be defending the legal action by Glasgow School of Art in court. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

The art school has also lodged an action against architects Page\Park, who led the design of the £35m restoration of the Mack following the first fire in 2014. In 2018, architect David Paton told the Scottish Parliament culture committee ventilation ducts that allowed the art school fire in 2014 to take hold were still in place when a second blaze broke out four years later. The committee criticised the art school in its report last year for not giving enough priority to safeguarding the Mack against fire.

Residents living near the art school have said they did not hear a fire alarm go off on the night of the second blaze, and firefighters said they believed the blaze started up to an hour before it was reported.

The Holyrood committee said it was not in a position to determine whether it was switched on and fully operational, and said this would be considered as part of Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s investigation.

Alasdair Perry, head of prevention and protection for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This has been a complex and thorough investigation, which remains ongoing. On-site investigations and ­excavations had been temporarily suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic but have now recommenced at the GSA site, subject to Scottish Government guidance and social distancing rules.

“It is not possible at present to provide a definitive timescale for the investigation being concluded, and we would like to thank everyone for their understanding and patience as we continue with this significant fire investigation.”

Both cases were listed on the Court of Session roll as being the Glasgow School of Art versus the two firms, but an art school spokeswoman said the actions were by its insurers.

She said: “The GSA is fully aware of the actions raised by the insurers and it is a standard procedure which they are entitled to undertake. This process is to recover documents before time bar.”

Page\Park architects were unavailable for comment.