Fire at National Museum Cardiff

No injuries or damage, and museum reopened next day
Patrick Steel
A fire broke out in the Evolution of Wales gallery on the ground floor of the National Museum Cardiff at the weekend, which saw the museum close for the day on Saturday.

There were no injuries and no damage as the fire was contained, and the museum reopened the next day.

A spokeswoman for Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales said: “A small technical fault in a gallery on the ground floor of National Museum Cardiff resulted in a small fire in the museum on Saturday afternoon 6 October.

“The fire service were called. Nobody was hurt and there was no damage to the collections. The museum reopened at 12.30pm on Sunday 7 October.”

In Scotland, The Courier reported that polyisocyanurate (PIR), which was used in the cladding of Grenfell Tower, was also used in the construction of heritage buildings including the Glasgow School of Art, which burned down earlier this year, and the V&A Dundee. Grenfell Tower was a residential tower block in London, which burned down in 2017 causing 72 deaths and over 70 injuries.

The Fire Brigades Union, in a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee investigation into fire safety in September, suggested that PIR “has unusual burning characteristics and is claimed by some in the plastic foam insulation industry to be ‘noncombustible’. Is there a commonly agreed status for the fire performance of PIR in Scotland? Is it considered to be combustible or non-combustible?”

A spokeswoman for the Glasgow School of Art told Museums Journal that the “vast majority” of heritage buildings have PIR in their construction, but it was not used in cladding as at Grenfell Tower.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) investigation into the Glasgow School of Art fire is ongoing. SFRS has not yet responded to questions from the Museums Journal regarding its view on the combustibility of PIR and any safety issues surrounding the material’s use.

A V&A Dundee spokesperson told Museums Journal that PIR was used in the construction of its roof, but rejected any suggestion that this represented a fire risk.
The spokesperson said: “The design and construction of V&A Dundee is fully compliant with all existing building standards and those being considered for the future.
“The guidelines referred to by The Courier relate to walls of high rise buildings and residential properties, and it is entirely incorrect to equate these to roofing.
“There are fundamentally different considerations for the use of materials in roofs, particularly as all wall insulation in V&A Dundee is non-combustible and there are no cavity routes for fire to spread to the roof. There will also be no welding on the roof of V&A Dundee, as nothing on the roof requires welding, removing that fire risk.
“The museum’s design and construction have been subject to a rigorous fire engineering strategy, assessed independently by peers, building standards and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. This includes a marshalled evacuation procedure.
“The building is fully monitored by a fire detection system within the museum, which also immediately contacts the fire service in case of any incident. Fire safety risk assessments are also conducted annually by an independent assessor.”

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