Harrow Court: Bereaved dad hits out
PUBLISHED: 11:20 08 March 2007 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 May 2010
A grieving father has spoken about the day his firefighter son died in the Harrow Court inferno. Howard Miller felt it was time to talk about the loss of his son Michael Miller who died with colleague Jeff Wornham in the Harrow Court blaze on February 2,
A grieving father has spoken about the day his firefighter son died in the Harrow Court inferno.
Howard Miller felt it was time to talk about the loss of his son Michael Miller who died with colleague Jeff Wornham in the Harrow Court blaze on February 2, 2005.
After a jury returned a narrative verdict into the deaths of both firefighters and accidental death on flat resident Natalie Close, Mr Miller talked about the harrowing day when police knocked at his door in Thumbswood, Welwyn Garden City.
Mr Miller, 49, who now lives in Stamford, Lincolnshire, wiped away the tears after listening to the inquest into how his son died.
"I will never forget the day as long as I live. February 2, 2005, when the police came and knocked on my front door to tell me my son had died in a fire," said Mr Miller.
"To make matters worse when I got back home there on the door mat was an invitation to his wedding. I was devastated and will never get over his death."
Michael lived in Hertford with his mother but spent a lot of time with his father in WGC.
"It is crystal clear to me, now we know many of the facts, that these have been needless deaths.
"My family do not blame any of the individuals who were there on that tragic night. Most of the problems surround training and procedures and procedural training. What the public would view as physical training has been replaced by firefighters watching CD-Roms and reading memos on noticeboards.
"It is sheer folly to do this just to save money and if it continues something like this is going to happen again."
Mr Miller also slammed senior members of the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue service claiming the firefighting training facility at Longfield in Stevenage has been closed for more than two years after complaints from nearby residents about smoke.
"Everyone who is going to be trained as a firefighter would normally go there. It is logical because it is a training centre," said Mr Miller.
"The facility has been effectively shut down for more than two years because someone living opposite made a call to environmental health at Stevenage Borough Council to complain about the smoke when training was taking place.
"Now for their training, firefighters have to go to Bedfordshire and Essex. I am staggered that a senior fire officer has not challenged this abatement order on nuisance value alone.
"Someone who lives opposite the fire training station complains about excess smoke. My advice would be for them to close their windows. Don't complain about people training to save lives."
A Stevenage Borough Council spokesman said: "In January 2005 the Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service agreed to introduce a number of measures to reduce the amount of smoke emitted from the Longfield training site during certain exercises.
"However, after more complaints in April and May that year we discovered that these measures were not being fully implemented.
"The fire service was advised that if steps were not taken to implement and enforce the agreed measures then an abatement notice would be issued.
"Following further complaints from residents in June and visits to the Longfield site from Environmental Health officers an abatement notice was issued in September 2005."
Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service assistant chief fire officer Peter Hazeldine said: "Smoke house training has been closed for a year at Longfield following an abatement notice. Other training facilities are in place at Luton Airport and the service ensures that all new recruits and firefighters receive sufficient training.
"Other breathing apparatus training is still carried out at Longfield and in nearby locations.