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Daily Echo

Sprinklers should be added to high-rise towers following firefighter deaths

Shirley Towers following the fire in 2010

Shirley Towers following the fire in 2010

Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author

Reported by Jon Reeve

Education Reporter

Published / News
10 comments

A CORONER is demanding lessons are learned from the tragic death of two hero Southampton firemen.

Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman has issued a string of wide-ranging recommendations for fire services and social housing providers around the country, in the wake of the April 2010 inferno at Shirley Towers that claimed the lives of Alan Bannon and Jim Shears.

Amongst his recommendations he has said he wants sprinklers retrospectively added to all high-rise buildings, and a review of training for firefighters.

After hearing the St Mary's-based firemen died in extreme heat after getting trapped by fallen cables in a smoke-filled flat on the ninth-floor of the tower block, he is calling for changes to ensure there is no repeat of the conditions that led to the apartment becoming a “death-trap”.

In recommendations which he wants sent to every fire service and social housing provider in the UK, Mr Wiseman has said there should be changes to building regulations as well as a review of the training given to all firefighters.

He has given three government ministers and the country's chief inspector of fire services two months to respond to the suggestions he has made under legal powers granted to all coroners.

A jury last year returned a verdict of misadventure for the two members of Red Watch, in which it said “obvious precautions” to stop the fire had not been taken, while the conditions for all those involved in the emergency response became “extremely difficult and dangerous”.

Jurors said “numerous factors have been identified as being relevant in the chain of causation which could have affected the eventual outcome”.

After hearing 15 days of often-harrowing evidence, Mr Wiseman has now drawn up a series of changes he believes are needed to ensure there is no repeat of the tragedy.

In a statement, Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said today it “welcomed” the coroner's recommendations.

The service said: “The recommendations are helpful in publicising the conclusions from the inquest and we fully support the Coroner's approach.

“These recommendations call for action not only from fire and rescue services (FRS), but also from Government - something the Service has been pushing for through the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).

“The day after the incident, in which we lost our two colleagues James Shears and Alan Bannon, the Chief Officer John Bonney made a firm commitment that we would learn from that night. Our resolve remains as strong today as it was then to learn the lessons from the tragedy.

“The Service's commitment to respond to the events of Shirley Towers will not end here.

“Our crews continue to respond to emergencies, exposing themselves to risk every day to protect our communities.

“The best tribute we can pay to Jim and Alan is to carry on providing the very best service that we can to the people of Hampshire and ensuring the fire service as a whole benefits from our learning.”

Read the full letter below:

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