Incident directory

1981 - Aberchalder Lodge

21/05/1981

Country:

UK

  • Building Fires

Severity:

Description

Date and event

21st May 1981.

Time of event

Approximately 17:40 or 17:55 hours; (INITIAL CALL).

Name of premise

Aberchalder Lodge.

Location

4 miles from Invergarry, Inverness-shire, Scotland.

Service area

Northern Fire Brigade, then Highlands and Islands Fire Brigade and then Fire Rescue Service (H&IFRS), now The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

Nature of incident

Fire.

Property type

Two storey hotel.

Premise use

Hotel.

Construction type and materials

Brick supporting walls and slate roof premises of 2 storeys. Unknown dimensions at this time.

Occupancy

Unknown at this time.

Fire source and location of fire

A first floor bedroom, suspected electrical fire under the floor of the bedroom above the living room (Unknown author/s, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date).

Synopsis

Brief synopsis

On the 21st May, 1981 at approximately 17:40 or 17:55, The Northern Fire Brigade were called to a fire at the Aberchalder Lodge. Initially staff had spotted smoke coming from the roof and then on investigation found upstairs rooms smoke logged. Attempts to tackle the fire were made using extinguishers. Further units in addition to the first attending volunteer Fort Augustus crews, were called from Inverness and Fort William. By the time the first crews arrived ‘the flames had tremendous hold and were coming through the roof’ (Love, 1981 & Unknown author, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date)

It is currently understood that at approximately 20:00, during damping down operations, a Station Officer (StnO) and the Firefighter (Ff) who died, Roderick Macleod, had been stood in a ground floor living room where there had been a flare up in the corner of the room. From the press reports, The StnO said ‘We were just inside the door, far enough to get at the flames with a hose’. ‘Fireman Macleod was holding the hose and he was standing further in than I was’. ‘We were there for about a half minute’. ‘Then there was just this tremendous bang and a loud crash’. ‘I got a rap on the small of my back and I fell face outwards into the hallway’. ‘From below my knees, I was inside the door and under debris and I could feel hot embers in my hair’. ‘I managed to push myself into the hall’ (Love, 1981 & Unknown author, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date)

Ff Macleod was found buried under debris including beams that were too heavy to move without using hydraulic jacks.

The StnO later said that ‘generally the safest place to fight a fire in a room was from the door, and a ceiling normally collapsed in the middle or at the outside wall’. ‘At the time they entered the room there was no sign of danger’. ‘He recalled that most of the beams which fell had been unaffected by fire’. Retired Divisional Commander (DivCdr 1) with the fire brigade at Inverness, who was in charge at the scene had said ‘A few minutes before he had been in the living room and found it intact’. ‘He said normal practice was to fight a room fire from the doorway, which was the safest area’ (Love, 1981 & Unknown author, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date)

DivCdr 1 said he ‘later discovered a trim joist structure above the doorway of the room, which is weaker than the usual building method’. ‘This type of joist is a beam that is checked into a crossbeam rather than resting on a wall as normal’. ‘A trim joist was usually found only where there was a fireplace or obstruction’. ‘He was surprised to find it at such a point in a house which was about 100 years old’. DivCdr 1 ‘thought a joist in the corner being burned through had caused a shock, which then caused the trim joist to collapse because it was the weakest area’. ‘He felt that if there had been a normal joist at the doorway the ceiling would have collapsed at the centre leaving the firemen in a safe position’ (Love, 1981 & Unknown author, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date)

The cause of death was later found to be asphyxia as the result of an accident (Love, 1981 & Unknown author, 1981; via Kirkwood, unknown date)

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Main findings, key lessons & areas for learning

Unknown at this time.

Fire and Rescue Service summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

FBU summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

Other report summary of main findings, conclusions, key lessons & recommendations

Further information hoping to be identified and still to be located.

IFE Commentary & lessons if applicable

None produced at this time.

Known available source documents

Further information to be identified and still to be located.

FRS Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

FBU Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Police Scotland Incident Report/s

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Scottish Ambulance Service Incident Report

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Report/investigations/research

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Coroner’s report/s and/or Rule 43 and/or Regulation 28 Notices etc

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Dear Chief Officer Letters (DCOL), FRS Circulars, FRS Notices and/or Bulletins etc

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Notifications from National Operational Learning User Group (NOLUG) and/or Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP)

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Other information sources

House, A. & Settle, P. et al. (2017). The firefighter memorial trust book of remembrance. [online]. Available at; http://www.theonlinebookcompany.com/OnlineBooks/FirefighterMemorialTrust/Content/Filler  [Accessed 20th September 2017]. The Firefighters Memorial Trust.

Note; with the above source reference, it is not currently possible to link directly to the relevant page of the memorial book.

Love, J. (1981). Lodge fire claims life Inverness fireman killed at Invergarry. The Press and Journal. (May 22nd). Unknown page number. Via Kirkwood, G. [online]. Available here; http://www.graemekirkwood.co.uk/HI/Memorial/MacLeod.htm (Accessed 26th November 2017).

Unknown author, (1981). Unknown publication. Via Kirkwood, (2017). Joist that killed fireman was weak, inquiry told. [online]. Available here; http://www.graemekirkwood.co.uk/HI/Memorial/MacLeod.htm (Accessed 26th November 2017).

Unknown author 2. (1981). Fireman killed as roof collapses during Scottish guest house fire. Fire. (July). Page 68.

 Pic 02

 Service learning material

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

Videos available

No information identified to date and/or still to be located.

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