Extensive Fire Damage to Historic ‘Inspector Morse’ Hotel

« Back to blog home24 Apr 2015 by Indepth Hygiene

Extensive Fire Damage to Historic ‘Inspector Morse’ Hotel

 Oxford’s world famous 5 star hotel, Macdonald Randolph, remains closed after a “devastating” fire. 

 The blaze, which apparently raged for hours, started in the Ground Floor kitchen when sparks from a flambé were sucked up into the extract ductwork, so that whilst the fire was quickly controlled in the kitchen itself, it had already spread rapidly through this ventilation system to the rest of the building. 

 80 guests were forced to flee the 150 year old Grade II listed building, frequently seen in the popular TV series Inspector Morse, when 70 firefighters attended the scene in 14 fire engines, including 2 high reach engines.  A few guests received medical treatment, but none were thought to have been injured.  Surrounding buildings were also evacuated with road closures and thick smoke causing severe disruption in the area.  Crews remained at the ‘significantly damaged’ hotel for several days to ensure all embers had been fully extinguished.

Fortunately the blaze started during the daytime when most guests were already out of the building, but finding alternative accommodation for some 200 residents, including wedding guests, proved challenging for Hotel Manager, Michael Grange.  He described the damage as “Pretty devastating - the fire has caused millions of pounds of damage”.

A student bystander was quoted as saying “It was chaos really - it was lucky nobody was hurt, but whilst very distressing it could have been so much worse”.  Regent’s Park student Kate Bickerton added “It was obviously sad to see such a prominent Oxford landmark being destroyed”.

Peter Clearly, station manager from Oxfordshire’s Fire and Rescue Service described the fire as “Dramatic”, but that they had done their best to help those resident in the hotel by retrieving urgent items from rooms in total darkness, such as medication and passports for those catching flights, and even rings, table plans, decorations and outfits, including top hats and the bridal gown for a wedding taking place the next day.  This was naturally extremely stressful for the young couple, with them at one point thinking they would be getting married in jeans – a wedding the Rescue Service said they’d never forget.

Fire & Rescue Services have reported a spate of similar fires in buildings with catering facilities linked to grease extract ductwork systems.  These systems are designed to suck up grease laden air from kitchens and vent them to atmosphere, often on the roof of a building several floors above.  However, they can also suck up small sparks from the usual cooking process so that whilst a little ‘flare up’ such as in this case can be thought to have been dealt with simply and quickly in the kitchen itself, a fire may have caught hold in the ductwork itself where any accumulations of grease, dust and debris help feed and spread the blaze, making it far more wide-spread, damaging and of course costly.

With reports that the fire was thought to have been put out in the kitchen only for it to have spread through the ductwork causing extensive damage to the five-storey building, this appears to have the potential to be a time-consuming and costly insurance claim; it remains to be seen whether the ductwork cleaning contractor is found to be at fault in any way.