The Cutty Sark the day after the May, 21 2007 Fire (Stephen Craven / The Cutty Sark, burnt out)

On the morning of May 21, 2007, along the River Thames in Greenwich, London, the historic ship Cutty Sark, undergoing conservation work, experienced a devastating fire that lasted for several hours. The extensive damage resulted in the loss of most of the wooden structure in the ship’s center.

Approximately half of the ship’s components, including timbers, had been removed from the site during the preservation work. Concerns centered on the condition of the iron framework to which these components were attached.

The fire, reported just before 5 am, reached temperatures of 1,100 degrees Celsius at its peak. An investigation revealed that security guards, responsible for monitoring the ship, had contemplated leaving work early. They had falsified a log until 7 am, falsely claiming that everything was in order. Upon police interrogation, the guards provided vague and inconsistent accounts, leading to their immediate dismissal. Detective Chief Inspector Dave Garwood asserted that proper patrolling could have prevented the severe consequences of the fire.

The ship lacked sprinklers, removed during repairs, and no fire alarm activated. The inquiry concluded that the cause was accidental, ruling out arson. The most probable cause was identified as the unintentional operation of an industrial vacuum cleaner, left switched on over the weekend of May 19-20, 2007.

Authorities contacted the health and safety executive with concerns about the vacuum cleaner, which had been previously sent for repairs in October 2006 due to safety issues. The construction management company overseeing the site faces scrutiny regarding the proper execution of end-of-day checks.

The fire extensively damaged all three decks of the ship, destroying building structures and tools on board.

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