36 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 9 FIRES IN HISTORIC BUILDINGS THE IMPORTANCE OF EMERGENCY PLANNING SIMON KINCAID OF ALL the threats facing our most important historic buildings, fire is potentially the most horrifying for obvious reasons, even where lives are not at risk. It is not just the speed of their destruction that sets fires apart, but also the scope of their impact on both buildings and their contents. Much can and is being done to improve fire safety in historic buildings, both to prevent the outbreak of fire and to control its spread should it occur. Where conservation restrictions allow and financial resources are available, historic buildings have had fire compartmentation improved, fire detection and alarm systems upgraded and in some cases fire suppression systems installed. Routine upgrading work such as electrical rewiring has also helped to reduce the risk. Owners and managers of buildings have understood the importance of fire safety management and consequently fire loading has been reduced where possible, ignition sources considered and temporary risks (such as having contractors on site) addressed. Despite the improvements, there continues to be a regular incidence of serious fires in historic buildings. Every so often there are landmark cases that everyone takes notice of, for example Glasgow School of Art in 2014 and 2018, Royal Clarence Hotel in 2016 and Clandon Park House in 2015. However, it is the number and frequency of smaller fires that is really pernicious. Accurate numbers are problematic because of the lack of heritagespecific recording of incidents, but data collected for England suggests that over 350 fires occurred in heritage buildings in 2018 alone. Given the above, it is clear that owners and operators of all historic buildings should accept the possibility that a fire might occur, recognise that forward planning for such an event can make a critical difference to the outcome, and ensure that they have The once magnificent early Georgian interior of Clandon Park House in Surrey, which was gutted by fire in 2015 (All photos: Simon Kincaid)