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National Library of Wales Fire Investigation Report

16/05/2013 14:00

The area of the Library that was affected by fire is known as the Third Library Building Offices on the South of the site.  The roof of the Third Library Building Offices was a flat roof with a concrete base and a bitumen, impregnated with gravel, roof covering.  Significant works were being undertaken to the roof of the Library as a whole.

Prior to the start of the fire two workers had been stripping the roof covering from the flat roof of the Third Library Building Offices using a scalping machine.  This machine was not able to remove all of the roof covering from around the edges of the roof and as such the workers used a propane powered blow torch to warm the roof covering which was then scraped off using hand tools. 

Shortly after 14.30 one worker was using the blow torch to warm the roof covering on the edge of the Third Library Building Offices roof.  The blow torch caused the ignition of the wood behind the external cladding.  The two workers attempted to extinguish the fire however they were unable to access behind the external cladding from the roof edge and the application of water had no effect on the development of the fire. 

The fire spread behind the external cladding extremely quickly due to the dry nature of the material, believed to be bitumen impregnated fiberboard, and the bitumen impregnated dust generated by the scalping machine.  One of the workers activated the fire alarm for the library and notified Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service at 14.38.  Library staff attempted to extinguish the fire using a number of fire extinguishers however these had no impact on the development of the fire due to the external cladding protecting the seat of the fire.

A total of 8 pumping appliances, an Aerial Ladder Platform, Incident Command Unit and a High Volume Pumping appliance from notified Mid & West Wales Fire & Rescue Service attended the incident extinguishing the fire using the Aerial Ladder Platform as a water tower, numerous main jets and hose reel jets.

The most probable cause has been recorded as the accidental ignition of timber, located behind the external cladding on the edge of the roof.  Ignition was caused by the propane powered blow torch.