Warlingham Park Hospital fire

Surrey, UK

Warlingham Park Hospital fire

Type of Fire


Ignition Source





7 fatalities


Life, emergency services response

What happened at Warlingham Park Hospital?

In 1981, a fire occurred in the James Ward of Warlingham Park Hospital in Surrey, England. Seven patients of the hospital tragically lost their lives.


How did the Warlingham Park Hospital fire start?

The fire was believed to have been started by a patient using instruments intended for smoking, such as a match or lighter producing a naked flame.


What did the industry learn from the Warlingham Park Hospital fire?

The incident became a catalyst for testing to be carried out on hospital bedding, involving ignition studies using matches and cigarettes. This included small-scale tests and a full-scale simulation of a three-bed area of the James Ward where the fire was first seen, measuring smoke, toxic gases, heat radiation, and temperatures.

The work confirmed the importance of considering the bed as a complete composite rather than as individual components. The testing also confirmed the rapid-fire growth that can occur from plastics in fires, such as using a polyester quilt draped over the side of a bed with a polyurethane foam mattress.

As a result of the testing work, the life-threatening conditions created during the fire which were faced by fire rescue and fire fighting teams were also shown.

The hospital was closed in 1999 and redeveloped as a housing estate; the grade II listed clock tower is all that remains of the hospital.

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