‘Robust’ policy on ash disposal recommended after fatal fire at luxury hotel

An inquiry into a fire at a luxury hotel which killed two men has recommended that “robust procedures” should be in place to ensure ash from fires is disposed of safely.

Simon Midgley, 32, and his partner Richard Dyson, 38, from London, both died in a blaze at the five-star Cameron House Hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond in December 2017.

The fire started after hot ashes were placed in a concierge cupboard in the main reception area of the property.

The hotel operator Cameron House Resort (Loch Lomond) Ltd has already been fined £500,000 following the incident, with night porter Christopher O’Malley given a community payback order for his role in the fire.

Cameron House Hotel fire inquiry
Simon Midgley, right, and Richard Dyson died in the fire (family handout/PA)

A fatal accident inquiry was held last year to establish if lessons could be learned from the incident.

In a report released on Wednesday, Sheriff Thomas McCartney ruled all operators in Scotland should “have in place up to date and robust procedures, informed by an assessment of risks, to ensure that ash from open fires in hotels is removed and disposed of in a safe manner, thereby avoiding the risk of fires being started by the careless disposal of ash”.

The recommendation was made after the inquiry found the fire had begun in a concierge cupboard of the hotel “as a result of hot embers within ash igniting combustibles within said cupboard”.

In his 122-page determination, Sheriff McCartney also recommended that the Scottish Government should consider introducing a rule for a sprinkler system – or “active fire suppression system” – to be made a requirement when historic buildings are converted into hotels.

The report said that at Cameron House Hotel, there were “a number of defects in systems of working which contributed to the accident resulting in the deaths”.

Cameron House Hotel fire
The luxury hotel was badly damaged in the fatal fire (Crown Office/PA)

These included the “careless disposal of ash” on the night of the fire.

Sheriff McCartney ruled that both Mr Midgely and Mr Dyson died as a result of the “inhalation of smoke and fire gases due to the hotel fire”.

He said a “reasonable precaution” would have been for the hotel to have a “clear system of work for the safe cleaning and removal of ash from the open fires”, and for “appropriate training” in this to be provided.

He also said a delay in obtaining a guest list after the fire had resulted in a “delay in carrying out an accurate roll call” of people who had been in the building.

Sheriff McCartney went on to recommend hotel operators in Scotland should “ensure that clear and robust arrangements are in place for promptly ensuring all persons are accounted for in the event of evacuation”.

Christopher O'Malley
Night porter Christopher O’Malley was given a community payback order after admitting breaches of health and safety laws (PA)

Dumbarton Sheriff Court heard in January 2021 that the fire started after O’Malley emptied ash and embers from a fuel fire into a polythene bag, and then put it in a cupboard which contained kindling and newspapers.

The hotel firm admitted failing to take the necessary fire safety measures to ensure the safety of its guests and employees between January 14, 2016 and December 18, 2017.

The company admitted two charges of breaching the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005.

O’Malley admitted breaching sections of health and safety laws which relate to the obligation on an employee to take reasonable care for the health and safety of people affected by their acts or omissions at work.

Since the hotel reopened in September 2021, the inquiry was told, there have been revised fire safety procedures in place and new fire safety measures including sprinklers and updated alarms.