Firefighters outside the Rosenheim building in Huntley Street after tackling the blaze
Hospital arson attack probed
DETECTIVES are investigating arson at a University College London Hospital building.
The fire started in the basement of the empty Rosenheim building in Huntley Street shortly after 2am on Friday. It was in the Rosenheim building that medics treated poisoned former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, although the police investigation is not linking this to the arson attack.
Twenty fire engines were dispatched and more than 100 firefighters from nine stations battled the blaze for seven hours.
Euston firefighters have told how they braved “punishing conditions” and temperatures of more than 300 degrees.
Blue Watch manager at Euston fire station Gary Pile said: “It was like stepping into an oven. There was 500m of tunnel down there. The heat and the smoke meant that our breathing apparatus would only last for around 30 minutes. That’s why I called for more pumps to be sent to the scene. We started with four, but in the end there were 20. We managed to save about 90 per cent of the building.”
Specially trained sniffer dogs discovered three “fire accelerators” planted in the basement, leading police investigating the blaze to describe it as “suspicious”. While the cause of the fire has been identified the motive remains a mystery.
Although no patients were in the Rosenheim building at the time the fire started, there is a tunnel leading from the basement to the neighbouring Elizabeth Garrett Anderson maternity building.
A UCLH spokesman said the basement was used to store medical supplies. He added: “The fire looks like it was started on purpose. No patients were in the building and disruption to out-patients the next day was kept to a minimum. “We are adding extra security in the basement and are calling for anyone with information to help police.”
Mr Litvinenko died in November 2006 at UCLH after being treated by nuclear medicine specialists in the department of medical physics and bioengineering.