Heritage fire-risk warning as brigade runs drill at Kenwood House

London Fire Brigade Kenwood

London Fire Brigade tested safety procedures at Hampstead's Kenwood House - Credit: London Fire Brigade

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has run a mock fire exercise at Kenwood House to ensure heritage sites can be "preserved for future generations".

The former stately home in Hampstead Lane houses a collection of renowned artworks, including pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Turner and Constable as well as the Suffolk Collection of Stuart portraits.

The brigade has warned thousands of historic items in London are at risk of being lost forever if venues do not have the correct salvage plans in place.

In the past four years, Historic England figures show the brigade attended 1,285 fires at or near heritage sites and 50 fires at cultural venues such as a museum or art gallery.

Nationally, there are an average of around 100 fires at heritage sites each month.

London Fire Brigade

Firefighters want to ensure that Kenwood's renowned artworks are protected in emergencies. - Credit: London Fire Brigade

There are estimated to be over 20,000 listed buildings in London, including national landmarks, attractions and historic properties.

LFB has a dedicated heritage team, which works closely with cultural and historic venues, and carries out drills to rehearse the response to an incident such as fire or flood.

LFB heritage team leader William Knatchbull said: “With so many heritage sites in the capital part of our role is to preserve them for the next generation.

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“We can’t preserve these beautiful and iconic landmarks without the venues themselves working with us to have emergency salvage plans in place.

"All building managers need to be aware how important it is to have a plan should the worst-case scenario ever occur."

London Fire Brigade Kenwood House

Kenwood House was used to trial fire safety procedures - Credit: London Fire Brigade

Abi Marsh, English Heritage London's head of historic properties, said: “Keeping our guests, staff, historic collection and buildings safe is our number one priority, we not only have incredibly stringent preventative fire protection measures in place but also understand the importance of our staff being prepared through training such as this week’s exercise with the London Fire Brigade.

"We are very grateful to all the team at the London Fire Brigade for their continued work supporting us in caring for our historic spaces.”   

The brigade said that every museum, gallery and historic building should have a nominated person responsible for a salvage plan, which identifies what actions should be implemented by on-site representatives, and identifies priority items that need to be removed from the building in an emergency.