Fire report highlights errors

PUBLISHED: 12:11 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 10:11 06 May 2010

Michael Miller

Michael Miller

A REPORT into a fire at a block of flats which killed two firefighters and a resident has revealed a number of errors in procedures on the night of the blaze. Michael Miller, 26, and Jeff Wornham, 28, died when rescuing resident Natalie Close at Harrow C

Jeff Wornham

A REPORT into a fire at a block of flats which killed two firefighters and a resident has revealed a number of errors in procedures on the night of the blaze.

Michael Miller, 26, and Jeff Wornham, 28, died when rescuing resident Natalie Close at Harrow Court in Stevenage on February 2 last year.

Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service's investigation into the fire is officially due out after the inquests into the deaths of the firefighters - expected in the summer.

But the report, which reveals failures to follow procedures on the night, was leaked to the press.

Dry risers are left padlocked to avoid vandalism

A spokesman for Herts County Council said she couldn't confirm or deny the information in the report.

Chief fire officer Roy Wilsher confirmed the service will be reviewing its operating procedures as a result of the report.

He said: "The service has looked at everything that happened that night and considered every aspect of the way we handled the fire.

"We will be paying particular attention to reviewing our operating procedures for preparing, attending and dealing with incidents to ensure that a safe system of work is always introduced and maintained throughout an incident."

The report says the two firefighters who died ascended before a risk assessment was conducted, they were not supervised by a dedicated breathing apparatus entry control officer and there was confusion about who had entered the building.

It states there was a lack of radio checks and corrosion of the circuit board in Mr Wornham's radio meaning his outgoing messages were inaudible.

It also reveals the pair had no water to tackle the blaze because the flats' dry riser outlets - which pumps water from the ground - had been chained and padlocked shut because of vandalism. The report says the firefighters did not take anything with them to cut open the chains.

This was confirmed by Stevenage Borough Council. A spokesman said: "We are considering the report's findings but we can confirm that the dry riser outlets were chained and this was done in consultation and agreement with the fire service as a result of ongoing vandalism."

These dry riser outlets, outside and inside the building on each level, are still chained up.

James and Sarah Poole, of Harrow Court, said before the outlets were chained children would mess around with them.

The couple, who were in on the night of the fire, said they were shocked to learn of the errors which happened on the night.

James said: "I think everyone is trying to blame everyone else. There are so many of them involved in this. I can't say that on the night they [the firefighters] looked confused or bewildered. They looked like they were really organised. They were quite stressed because of the situation.

"I feel that's [the report] the thing that makes us feel worried, makes us feel like we're not safe in here."

"A lot of things went wrong leading up to the fire and it is shocking that so many things were allowed to go wrong.

"Firefighters are always saying they need more money and that fire proved it. They need more training."

Mrs Poole said: "We live on the first floor so we're lucky but I don't feel safe."

Albert Hilton, who also lives on the first floor, said: "After reading it I feel terrible about what happened. When you think about it, it could have been worse than it was.

"There were plenty of firemen there so I couldn't really see what was going on. It's a bit frightening. Imagine what they feel like after those men died.

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