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Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End

So sad. Notre Dame, Paris. On Fire.

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Awful to watch. We did seem to have more than our fair share of historic building fires in the UK last year, although if you added them together, they wouldn't come close in significance to the Notre Dame fire. There was the five star Mandarin Oriental hotel fire in London on June 6, the  Glasgow School of Art fire on June 15 , followed by the August 28 fire in Belfast's iconic Bank buildings, which was Primark's UK flagship store. On September 2, a fire seriously damaged one of Liverpool's most famous landmarks, the Littlewoods Pools building. Both the Belfast and Glasgow buildings were near the end of lengthy refurbishment and reconstruction, while the Mandarin hotel had just finished the most extensive restoration project in its 115 year history a week earlier, costing £185 million.. The Liverpool building had lain empty since 2003, but just three months before the fire, it had been announced that it was to be converted into a major new complex, including film and television studios.
I've heard a lot of people express the opinion that the Glasgow School of Art Fire must have been arson. A report on the much less damaging 2014 fire concluded that a projector ignited flammable gases from a foam canister, so there's no suggestion of arson in that incident. But, the report on the second one is likely to be inconclusive, as it appears to have started in the roof area, which then collapsed. A google came up with this - independent fire safety consultant Stephen Mackenzie (speaking about the School of Art fire) "If the fire started in a roof, which then collapsed, then they are never going to find the source". The Belfast,  Liverpool and London fires also appear to have started in the roof area.
Buildings appear to be particularly vulnerable to fires when they are undergoing lengthy and extensive refurbishment or reconstruction. 'Hot work', such as welding, is an obvious ignition source, but you know when that's the cause, and no such work was underway in any of the buildings at the time, although two online catering websites I read suggested several days later that sparks from welding equipment were believed to be the source of the London fire. I haven't seen confirmation of this from any more authoritative sources, and it sounds like a rumour. Work had finished on the hotel, and this would be quickly established as the cause if welding equipment caused it. Electric cables are another potential source. However, the 'temporal coincidence' of the fires, in addition to the other shared similarities would suggest the possibility that the fires, or at least two or three of them, may have been caused by a serial arsonist. Something the police might call a 'line of inquiry'.  A long shot, perhaps, but worth looking into.
Three of the four buildings were being refurbished and reconstructed, one just finished and two almost finished. Scaffolding affords an intrepid arsonist with the means to break into buildings. Another possibility is that he was actually employed on the sites. Either way, any incendiary device planted would have a timer to ignite the inflammable material, such as petrol, hours or days after it was planted, giving him an alibi. He could even arrange to be on holiday in a foreign country, when it ignited.
The fact that all four fires appear to have started in the roof area is very strange. It's not the ideal place to start a fire if you're an arsonist, since fire spreads upwards much more readily. But it might be the best place to secrete a time delayed incendiary device to minimise the chance of it being discovered, firefighters on the ground might have a harder time dousing a roof fire, and it would be much more likely to result in a collapsed roof which, as the fire safety consultant above stated, would mean that investigators would not be able to pin down the source of the fire.  However, in the case of the Liverpool building, police stated that it appeared to be a 'case of deliberate ignition'. In other words, arson.
Notre Dame cathedral was also undergoing extensive reconstruction, and was surrounded by scaffolding. The fire started in the roof area. I admit it seems very far fetched that a serial arsonist responsible for some, or all, of the UK fires, might also be responsible for this one. The French authorities are investigating it as accidental. But, it's not out of the question. On the 19 January 2016, the Ritz hotel in Paris caught fire and was extensively damaged at the end of a £200 million three and a half year restoration and refurbishment project. It had been due to open in just two weeks time. Too much coincidence is not coincidence. At the very least, the police should get the details of everyone who worked on these restoration projects. If the same name comes up twice, he's probably the arsonist. Three times and it's definite. 
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