The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) have revealed the unfortunate series of events that led to the school's iconic Mackintosh library, alongside a large collection of student work and archives, devastated in a fire in May of this year. According to BDOnline, who have spoken with Tom Inns (Director of the GSA), "final-year students were setting up their degree show projects in the basement and holes in some pre-built foam panels were being filled with the spray foam."
The flammable gas used as a propellant in the canister was sucked into [a nearby] projector’s cooling fan, setting it alight. A foam panel directly behind the projector then quickly also caught light. "The flames quickly spread to timber panelling and through voids around the basement studio and then into the library two floors above and up through the rest of Mackintosh’s 1909 masterpiece." To add insult to injury, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) reported that "a fire suppression system was in the latter stages of installation at the time of the fire but was not operational."
Inns has stated that "it was an unfortunate accident and like any accident a whole series of events conspired against us to create the incident. [...] It was associated with a particular piece of work and circumstances but no finger-pointing is going on." The report also makes it clear how courageous the service people from Scottish Fire and Rescue were in protecting as much of the building as possible from further fire and water damage.
According to the report:
A major contributory factor for the fire spreading throughout the building was the number of timber lined walls and voids, and original ventilation ducts running both vertically and horizontally throughout the building. The vertical ventilation ducts consisted of both brick-lined, (located within the walls), and timber ducts (mounted on the wall surface). The brick-lined ducts were formed within the structure of the walls. Horizontal ducts were constructed of timber and, in some instances, sheet metal. A vertical service void ran the entire height of the building to roof level and acted like a chimney. It allowed flames, hot gases and smoke to travel vertically.
Download the report in full here (PDF).