This study investigates the simultaneous use of conventional fire-retardant additives and an insulative intumescent thermal barrier/mat to improve the fire performance and mechanical property retention of glass-fibre-reinforced polyester (GRP) composites. Significant reductions in the peak heat release rate (PHRR) and total heat release (THR) were observed from measured cone calorimetric data following the addition of nitrogen, phosphorous, halogen containing and hydroxylated fire-retardant additives. Some fire-retarded glass-fibre-reinforced composites further protected by an intumescent mat containing silicate fibres, expandable graphite and borosilicate glass bound together by an organic matrix show further reductions in PHRR. Despite improving the fire retardancy of the composites, the presence of fire-retardant additives alone does not improve flexural modulus retention following exposure to a heat source. However, the introduction of a ‘passive’ fire proofing insulative fabric enhances fire performance while preserving the mechanical properties of composites exposed to high heat fluxes or fires. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.