Harrow Court: Colleagues weren’t there’

A FEMALE firefighter told the inquest yesterday (Wednesday) of the events that led to her losing two colleagues. Temporary leading firefighter Helen Antrobus of Blue Watch at Stevenage Fire Station was in command of the first fire appliance to reach the i

A FEMALE firefighter told the inquest yesterday (Wednesday) of the events that led to her losing two colleagues.

Temporary leading firefighter Helen Antrobus of Blue Watch at Stevenage Fire Station was in command of the first fire appliance to reach the incident.

She recalled reading a teleprinter message - fire at Harrow Court, 15th floor, flat 89. Within a few minutes, she and the two firefighters who were to perish in the blaze had reached the incident only to discover it was on the 14th floor in flat 85.

Miss Antrobus told the inquest: "As we drove to the incident I could see smoke at high level. My first thought when we arrived was to get the equipment nearer the fire point. Jeff and Mike had breathing apparatus on and we went up to the 14th floor by lift. In the lift, I noticed Jeff had not brought his helmet so I gave him mine. "I had spoken to a man in the lobby who said the fire was in flat 85, not 89. I decided Jeff and Mike should make an action plan to break in. I then went up the corridor to sort out the water at the dry riser on the south staircase which is a protected stairwell.

"I found it chained and we needed to get water established quickly. I ran the hose back to the flat and suddenly realised things had changed dramatically.

"The area was filled with smoke and Jeff and Mike weren't there.

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"It was then that I realised they had gone in. The door might have been ajar but I could not see flames. I was on my knees because of the smoke and I went back to the dry riser and told control Jeff and Mike had gone in."

Miss Antrobus then said she saw Mr Savage covered from head to toe in soot who told her: "My girlfriend is in there."

By this time she had been joined by several colleagues. She recalled: "Simon Dredge and Jim Dudley both came flying through the flat door shouting they couldn't get to them."

Earlier Justin Lewis of the government's forensic science service told the inquest he was certain the fire had been started by tea light candles being left burning on the top of a TV. He also said there was no electricity in the flat which meant the smoke alarm was not functioning.

He added that the remains of the alarm had been found but did not contain a back up battery.