Police have confirmed that they are still treating last term’s second fire at Hertford as a possible case of arson.
At around 4:49pm on Friday of 8th week, black bin liners full of rubbish in the basement around the Radcliffe Square entrance to the college burst into flames. Soon, tall flames and plumes of smoke surrounded the building, scorching and blackening the outside walls of the college.
Fire engines soon arrived and succeeded in extinguishing the fire within ten minutes. Aside from some melted guttering, the damage was merely cosmetic. The fire brigade remained in the area for another hour, to ensure no smoke had entered the building and that the building was safe to be re-entered. Students were soon allowed back in.
Police arrived on the scene shortly afterwards, later confirming that they were treating the blaze as suspicious. A spokesman from the fire services stated that “arson is still being investigated… the details of the fire appear suspicious”.
A spokesman for Thames Valley police said in a statement “the causes of the fire are still unknown”, and that “investigations are ongoing”. However, college bursar Peter Baker denied this, claiming “police have ruled out arson, and are satisfied that the fire was accidental”. As yet, nobody has been arrested or taken in for questioning.
This fire was the second to have broken out on Hertford College property this term. In the early hours of Tuesday, Week 2, a fire outside the Warnock House property on St Aldate’s forced the evacuation of 100 , although there were no injuries in this incident either. Again, arson was initially considered as the cause of the fire, although police then ruled this out.
In spite of the two fires, college sources say they remain satisfied with Hertford’s fire safety and have no plans to alter their fire procedures. Sources in the emergency services have emphasised that they do not blame the college for the either incident.
Oxford’s fire service described Hertford’s response to the fire as exemplary, saying they were “very satisfied with the college’s fire measures” and were impressed by the speed and efficiency with which buildings were evacuated.