Cutty Sark fire caused by fire in vacuum cleaner left on ship by workers
By Robert Edwards
Sept. 30, 2008

The fire that gutted the Cutty Sark last year was caused by a vacuum cleaner "inadvertently" left on for two days by renovation workers, police said today.

The 19th-century clipper suffered £10 million worth of damage at its dry dock location in Greenwich, south-east London, last May.

The Metropolitan Police said that the blaze started in the stern of the ship on the lower deck after a motor fused in the industrial vacuum cleaner being used to remove waste from the ship.

There were no sprinklers on the ship, as they had been removed while it was being repaired. No fire alarm went off.

Heerey, the construction management company in charge of the site, is likely to face questions about whether end-of-day checks were carried out correctly.

The fire burned through each of the ship's three decks, destroying all the building work structures and tools onboard.

The damage added £10 million to the cost of an ongoing conservation project, bringing the total to £35 million.

But the damage could have been far worse; much of the ship had already been removed from the site.

Renovation of the ship is now expected to be completed by early 2010. Upon completion it will be raised three meters and suspended so visitors can walk underneath.

Balfour Beatty Management, parent company of Heery, was unavailable for comment.

Reprinted with the permission of the Daily Telegraph
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Page published Oct. 19, 2008